Copyright 1999 The Washington Post
July 28, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition
SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A04
LENGTH: 555 words
Senate Lifts Limits on Dumps; Other Efforts to Roll Back Environmental
BYLINE: Helen Dewar; Juliet
Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writers
The Senate voted yesterday to overturn federal rules
limiting mine waste dumps on federal lands to five acres,
although several other Republican proposals to roll back environmental
restrictions were sidelined because of a Senate rules change a day earlier.
The Senate rejected, 55 to 41, a Democrat-led effort to eliminate
language in a proposed $ 14 billion appropriations bill for the Interior
Department that would wipe out the five-acre limit. The vote reversed department
policy and legal rulings. Proponents of the provision argued that it was
necessary to protect the U.S. mining industry and the jobs it creates, while
foes contended it would lead to a proliferation of toxic waste dumps on public
lands and Indian reservations. To confine mining operations to five-acre dumps
would "kill the American mining industry" and send its jobs abroad, Sen. Frank
H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) said. To lift the limit "gives the mining industry
everything they want and the American people more dumps," countered Sen. Patty
Murray (D-Wash.), who led the effort to retain the five-acre restriction.
The vote came shortly after four other contentious environmental
provisions were stricken from the bill as a result of action by the Senate's
Republican majority Monday to reinstate a rule barring legislating on
Among the stricken provisions were ones to block
the administration from raising royalties on oil extracted from federal lands,
to halt implementation of an executive order to reduce governmental use of
electric and coal-produced energy and to give governors of Idaho and Montana
veto power over introduction of grizzly bears into their states.
sponsors of some of these provisions were working yesterday to restructure the
proposals so they might be acceptable under the restored rule. Votes on these
and other Republican proposals, which have drawn ire from environmentalists and
veto threats from the White House, are expected to continue next week.
In related action, the House approved a proposal requiring the Army
Corps of Engineers to complete a study before overhauling its permit process for
wetlands development and setting aside $ 5 million to create a new appeals
process for developers.
By a vote of 183 to 245, the House rejected an
effort to eliminate the proposal from a $ 20.5 billion spending bill for energy
and water projects for next year. The bill was later approved by the House.
Critics argued that the provision -- included in the bill by
Appropriations energy and water subcommittee Chairman Ron Packard (R-Calif.) at
the behest of industry groups -- would delay the administration's efforts to
strengthen wetlands protections. The administration has threatened to veto the
bill, in part because of the wetlands language.
"This is not something
that is minor or insignificant," said Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (Ind.), the
subcommittee's ranking Democrat.
But Republicans responded they were
simply trying to force the Corps of Engineers to implement policies the
administration itself had already proposed and to evaluate how much of a burden
the new rules would place on the agency. They modified the provision to require
that the study be issued by the end of the year, with the new rules taking
effect no sooner than a month afterward.
LOAD-DATE: July 28, 1999