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We do. We know better. And that knowledge gives us a responsibility. We must put our knowledge to constructive use. In this case, by cleaning up abandoned mine sites and other sources of pollution.
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If we solve the problem, our grandchildren won't have to.
The legislation is designed to eliminate the disincentives that currently exist in the Clean Water Act to the restoration of water quality through Good Samaritan cleanups of abandoned or inactive hardrock mines. To accomplish this, the legislation allows the federal government, states, tribes, and local governments that want to clean up an abandoned or inactive mining site to apply for a ``mine waste remediation'' permit instead of the typical Clean Water Act permit. The key to the mine waste remediation permit is that it allows Good Samaritans to improve water quality to the best of their ability rather than necessarily to achieve full compliance with water quality standards.
An application for a permit must be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency and include a detailed plan describing the cleanup actions that the Good Samaritan will take to improve water quality. Applicants for a permit must make a reasonable search for parties who are responsible for the mine waste and therefore, are subject to full compliance with the Clean Water Act. Based on a review of the plan and obtaining public input, EPA can approve an application if no companies responsible for the mine waste are found and if the application ``demonstrates with reasonable certainty that the implementation of the plan will result in an improvement in water quality to the degree practicable, taking into consideration the resources available to the remediating party for the proposed remediation activity.'' EPA will develop and issue regulations that detail the specific contents of applications for mine waste remediation permits and may, on a case-by-case basis, issue regulations that impose ``more specific requirements that the Administrator determines'' are appropriate for individual mine sites.
Upon approval of a permit, the Good Samaritan proceeds with the planned cleanup. EPA plays a continuing role in monitoring the cleanup's progress, conducting periodic reviews to assure permit compliance. As with an ordinary Clean Water Act permit, both EPA and citizens can take legal action if a Good Samaritan fails to comply with the terms of a mine waste remediation permit. When the cleanup is completed, the permit is terminated and the Good Samaritan is not held responsible for any future discharges from the site.
The legislation is based on a proposal by the Western Governors Association (WGA), which worked extensively with the environmental community, mining industry, and the Administration in developing it. The staff of Senator Max Baucus has also worked with these groups and WGA in crafting the legislation. The Western Governors support this legislation and urge that it be enacted in this Congress.
Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a letter of support from the Western Governors Association be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
WESTERN GOVERNORS' ASSOCIATION,
Denver, CO, October 19, 1999.
Hon. MAX BAUCUS,
Senator of Montana, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR SENATOR BAUCUS: The Western Governors commend you for introducing the ``Good Samaritan Abandoned or Inactive Mine Waste Remediation Act.'' As stated in WGA Resolution 98-004 (attached), the Western Governors believe that there is a need to eliminate current disincentives in the Clean Water Act for voluntary, cooperative efforts aimed at improving and protecting water quality impacted by abandoned or inactive mines. We believe your bill could effectively and fairly eliminate such disincentives, and we therefore urge its passage this Congress.
Inactive or abandoned mines are responsible for threats and impairments to water quality throughout the western United States. Many also pose safety hazards from open adits and shafts. These historic mines pre-date modern federal and state environmental regulations which were enacted in the 1970s. Often a responsible party for these mines is not identifiable or not economically viable enough to be compelled to clean up the site. Many stream miles are impacted by drainage and runoff from such mines, creating significant adverse water quality impacts in several western states.
Recognizing the potential for economic, environmental and social benefits to downstream users of impaired streams, western states, municipalities, federal agencies, volunteer citizen groups and private parties have come together across the West to try to clean up some of these sites. However, due to questions of liability; many of these Good Samaritan efforts have been stymied.
To date, EPA policy and some case law have viewed inactive or abandoned mine drainage and runoff as problems that must be addressed under Section 402 of the CWA--the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. This, however, has become an overwhelming disincentive for any voluntary cleanup efforts because of the liability that can be inherited for any discharges from an abandoned mine site remaining after cleanup, even though the volunteering remediating party had no previous responsibility or liability for the site, and has reduced the water quality impacts from the site by completing a cleanup project.
The ``Good Samaritan Abandoned or Inactive Mine Waste Remediation Act'' would amend the Clean Water Act to protect a remediating agency from becoming legally responsible for any continuing discharges from the abandoned mine site after completion of a cleanup project, provided that the remediating agency--or ``Good Samaritan''--does not otherwise have liability for that abandoned or inactive mine site and implements a cleanup project approved by EPA. The Western Governors support this bill, and urge that it be enacted this Congress.
Governor of Montana, WGA Lead Governor.
Governor of Colorado, WGA Lead Governor.
Michael O. Leavitt,
Governor of Utah.
Policy Resolution 98-004, Cleaning Up Abandoned Mines
1. Inactive or abandoned mines are responsible for threats and impairments to water quality throughout the western United States. Many also pose safety hazards from open adits and shafts. These historic mines pre-date modern federal and state environmental regulations which were enacted in the 1970s. Often a responsible party for these mines is not identifiable or not economically viable enough to be compelled to clean up the site. Thousands of stream miles are impacted by drainage and runoff from such mines, one of the largest sources of adverse water quality impacts in several western states.
2. Mine drainage and runoff problems are extremely complex and solutions are often highly site-specific. Although cost-effective management practices likely to reduce water quality impacts from such sites can be formulated, the specific improvement attainable through implementation of these practices cannot be predicted in advance. Moreover, such practices generally cannot eliminate all impacts and may not result in the attainment of water quality standards.
3. Cleanup of these abandoned mines and securing of open adits and shafts has not been a high funding priority for most state and federal agencies. Most of these sites are located in remote and rugged terrain and the risks they pose to human health and safety have been relatively small. That is changing, however, as the West has gained in population and increased tourism. Both of these factors are bringing people into closer contact with abandoned mines and their impacts.
4. Cleanup of abandoned mines is hampered by two issues--lack of funding and concerns about liability. Both of these issues are compounded by the land and mineral ownership patterns in mining districts. It is not uncommon to have private, federal, and state owned land side by side or intermingled. Sometimes the minerals under the ground are not owned by the same person or agency who owns the property. As a result, it is not uncommon for there to be dozens of parties with partial ownership or operational histories associated with a given site.
5. Recognizing the potential for economic, environmental and social benefits to downstream users of impaired streams, western states, municipalities, federal agencies, volunteer citizen groups and private parties have come together across the West to try to clean up some of these sites. However, due to questions of liability, many of these Good Samaritan efforts have been stymied.
a. To date, EPA policy and some case law have viewed inactive or abandoned mine drainage and runoff as problems that must be addressed under the Clean Water Act's (CWA) Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. This, however, has become an overwhelming disincentive for any voluntary cleanup efforts because of the liability that can be inherited for any discharges from an abandoned mine site remaining after cleanup, even though the volunteering remediating party had no previous responsibility or liability for the site, and has reduced the water quality impacts from the site by completing a cleanup project.
b. The western states have developed a package of legislative language in the form of a proposed amendment to the Clean Water Act. The effect of the proposed amendment would be to eliminate the current disincentives in the Act for Good Samaritan cleanups of abandoned mines. Over the three years that the proposal was drafted, the states received extensive input from EPA, environmental groups, and the mining industry.
6. Liability concerns also prevent mining companies from going back into historic mining districts and remining old abandoned mine sites or doing volunteer cleanup work. While this could result in an improved environment, companies which are interested are justifiably hesitant to incur liability for cleaning up the entire abandoned mine site.
B. GOVERNORS' POLICY STATEMENT
1. The Western Governors believe that there is a need to eliminate disincentives to voluntary, cooperative efforts aimed at improving and protecting water quality impacted by abandoned or inactive mines.
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2. The Western Governors believe the Clean Water Act should be anended to protect a remediating agency from becoming legally responsible under section 301(a) and section 402 of the CWA for any continuing discharges from the abandoned mine site after completion of a cleanup project, provided that their mediating agency--or ``Good Samaritan''--does not otherwise have liability for that abandoned or inactive mine site and attempts to improve the conditions at the site.
3. The Western Governors believe that Congress, as a priority, should amend the Clean Water Act in a manner that accomplishes the goals embodied in the WGA legislative package on Good Samaritan cleanups.
4. The governors support efforts to accelerate responsible and effective abandoned mine waste cleanup including the siting of joint waste repositories for cleanup wastes from abandoned mines on private, federal, and state lands. Liability concerns have hampered the siting of joint waste repositories leading to the more expensive and less environmentally responsible siting of multiple repositories. The governors urge the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to develop policy encouraging the siting of joint waste repositories whenever they make economic and environmental sense.
5. The governors encourage federal land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Park Service, as well as support agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to coordinate their abandoned mine efforts with state efforts to avoid redundancy and unnecessary duplication. Federal and State tax dollars should be focused on working cooperatively to secure and clean up abandoned mine sites, not working separately to conduct expensive and time consuming inventories, research, and mapping efforts.
6. Other responsible approaches to accelerate abandoned mine cleanup should be investigated, including remining.
7. Reliable sources of funds should be made available for the cleanup of abandoned mines in the West.
C. GOVERNORS' MANAGEMENT DIRECTIVE
1. WGA staff shall transmit a copy of this resolution and the proposed WGA legislative package on Good Samaritan cleanups to the President, the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Chairmen of the appropriate House and Senate Committees.
2. WGA staff shall work with the mining industry, environmental interests, and federal agency representatives to explore options to accelerate abandoned mine cleanup through remining and report back to the Governors at the 1999 WGA Annual Meeting.
3. WGA shall continue to work cooperatively with the National Mining Association, federal agencies, and other interested stakeholders to examine other mechanisms to accelerate responsible cleanup and securing of abandoned mines.
Approval of a WGA resolution requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Board of the Directors present at the meeting. Dissenting votes, if any, are indicated in the resolution. The Board of Directors is comprised of the governors of Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
By Mr. GORTON (for himself and Mr. LIEBERMAN):
S. 1789. A bill to provide a rotating schedule for regional selection of delegates to a national Presidential nominating convention, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
THE REGIONAL PRESIDENTIAL SELECTION ACT OF 1999
Mr. GORTON. Mr. President, the 2000 presidential election has already captured the interest of the national media, and once again the media struggles to make sense of one of this nation's most complex and confusing practices--the presidential nomination system. It is a tenet in this country, the greatest democracy in the world, that all citizens have an equal voice in choosing who will be the nominees for the final race for President of the United States. If there is one thing that has remained constant in the American system, it is democratic participation in our electoral process--a basic creed that has guided us toward wider participation and more direct election of our leaders. Ironically, however, every four years we are witnesses to the fact that the current system by which this country chooses its presidential nominees is not only arbitrary, but in many ways incompatible with the notion of equal participation in the nominating process.
One of the most memorable political cartoons I have had the pleasure of reading was drawn during the 1996 election by the cartoonist for a local paper in my home state of Washington. This cartoon illustrates just how bizarre the current presidential primary process really is. The cartoon features Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton brainstorming at the Constitutional Convention. Ben Franklin turns to his colleagues in jest and rattles off an idea for the presidential election system. He reads from his sheet of paper,
The President shall be chosen from among those persons who can hone complex ideas into simplistic sound bites, defame the character of their opponents, hide their own blemishes from an intrusive swarming press corps and--get this--win the most votes from a tiny number of citizens in a remote corner of New England!
To which Alexander Hamilton replies,
Very droll Franklin, you're quite the comedian.
Mr. President, I agree with the cartoonist that what our Founding Fathers would have regarded as a ridiculous way to choose a president is now reality. It is no joke--this IS how our Presidential nominating system works.
For some time Members of Congress, party activists, the states, and academics have all advocated reform of the Presidential nominating system in this country. The flaws in our current system are obvious. The system is unstructured, confusing, and it gives small states that hold early primaries or caucuses a disproportionate amount of influence on the final outcome. The lack of uniformity and clear guidelines in the system creates a system whereby states compete for an early position in the nominating process in order to attract candidates and to have some kind of influence in the nominating process. Small to middle-sized states that select delegates later in the game risk being shut out of the process all together and face having a limited role in choosing the Presidential nominee. While the 2000 primary schedule has not yet been solidified, the first primary will be held at the earliest date in history, and an alarming number of states have moved or are considering moving their primary earlier in the year with the hope of influencing the nomination process.
Clearly, the system does not allow for equal participation by all the states. It undermines the ideal of equal participation in the electoral process by giving certain states, year after year, far more leverage than others. This unequal balance of power, if you will, compromises the integrity of the nominating process.
At this time, while this country's Presidential nominating system again begins to receive national attention, I believe it is fundamental that the American people and this Congress begin discussing methods to improve the current system and introduce reforms to encourage wider participation and more direct nomination of Presidential candidates.
I am introducing, today, a bill to provide for a rotating regional selection system for the nomination of candidates for Presidential elections. This bill will establish four regions comprised of 12-13 states from the same geographic area in the country. All states in a region will hold primaries or caucuses on the same date either the first Tuesday in March, April, May, or June and no region will vote in the same month. The order in which each region votes will rotate with each presidential election cycle, allowing each region to have the opportunity to be the first, second, third, and last region in the country to vote.
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