Joint House-Senate Western Caucus Hearing Exposes Environmental Fear Mongering, Destruction of Jobs, Energy Production, Mining, Agriculture, etc.

H/T Jared Law
Environmental ‘Fear Mongering’ Kills Jobs and Energy Production, Say Leaders From Western U.S.
By Penny Starr | February 28, 2012

( – The Obama busterjohnson.jpgadministration’s excessive environmental regulations are having a detrimental impact on the West, including killing jobs and restricting domestic energy production, witnesses told a joint House-Senate Western Caucus hearing on Tuesday.

Buster Johnson, chairman of the Mohave County Arizona Board of Supervisors and co-chairman of the Arizona/Utah Local Economic Coalition, cited Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s proposed withdrawal of 1 million acres from mineral exploration and mining, including lands containing the nation’s richest uranium deposits.

“The Obama administration’s insistence that uranium mining will harm the Grand Canyon ecosystem, thereby ruining the region’s tourism-based economy, is pure fear-mongering and totally ignores uranium mining’s track record in the area,” Johnson said in his prepared remarks. “The reality is that during the 10-year period from 1981 to 1990, while uranium mining was in full swing in northern Arizona, visitation doubled to Grand Canyon National Park (from 2 to 4 millions visitors), Zion National Park and Lake Powell National Recreation Area,” he said.

Johnson cited a 2009 study on the impact of uranium mining in the Arizona counties of Coconino and Mohave over the next four decades. The report forecast more than 1,000 new jobs; $40 million in payroll; $20.4 billion in output; $2 billion in federal and state corporate income taxes; $168 million in state severance payments; and $9.5 million in mining claims payments and fees to local governments.

salazarcartoon_0.jpgThe Interior Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the land withdrawal was released in October 2011, when Salazar also put into place an “emergency” six-month segregation of the land.

The Record of Decision on the matter was signed on Jan. 12, 2012 and said “the withdrawal would primarily affect uranium, which is the most economically viable mineral in the area.”

The executive summary of the final EIS states that Salazar proposed the withdrawal “in response to increased mining interest in the region’s uranium deposits, as reflected in the recent increase in the number of new mining claim locations, and concern over potential impacts of uranium mining on the Grand Canyon watershed, adjacent to and including Grand Canyon National Park.”

Johnson was not the only witness to speak out against what critics describe as the Obama administration’s job-threatening regulatory policies.

Mark Knight testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Kansas Livestock Association, and “my friends and neighbors in the poultry business, other row crop farmers and all of agriculture,” he said.

Knight recited a list of regulations that he said are “bleeding agriculture to death.” His list included “greenhouse gas regulations, Superfund liability and reporting requirements, numeric nutrient criteria, emissions requirements for large engines, waters of the U.S. guidance, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) regulations” – and that’s just from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Knight also cited “endangered markknight.jpgspecies act regulations, Department of Labor regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture livestock marketing regulations and outdated transportation regulations.”

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter also testified, repeating the charges of other witnesses and making his own claims about the harm done to his state, which has 20.2 million acres of national forests and more than 4 million acres designated by Congress as “wilderness and reserves.”

“Relying on federal land managers in Washington, D.C., to make most of the decisions about what happens on Idaho lands too often leads to poor choices, mismanaged resources, local resentment and distrust,” said Gov. Otter.

As examples, Otter cited the listing of slickspot peppergrass as an endangered species and the “critical habitat designation of 375,000 acres for a few caribou that travel back and forth across the border from Canada.”

Dennis Fife, mayor of Brigham City, Utah, testified how the
measurement model used to rate areas’ compliance under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) does not accurately reflect realities on the ground in rural and sparsely populated places like his community, a practice that earned the town an “nonattainable” status. Fife said this status hurts the local economy’s ability to grow and attract new businesses, but that the EPA was unwilling to change its “flawed modeling.”

“Rather, the EPA comes across as acting like a bully, unflinching in its intention to impose its will while giving lip service to scientifically sound evidence that contradict their view,” Fife said in his prepared remarks.

Also testifying at the hearing were Chantell and Mike Sackett, whose battle with the EPA over designation of their land in Idaho as a protected “wetland” has made its way all the way to the Supreme Court.

Their attorney, Damien Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation, spoke about the battle the Sacketts and others in similar situations are waging against the government because of excessive regulations – for example, 200,000 acres in California designated as “critical habitat” for the California gnatcatcher and the still endangered status of the gray wolf, whose growing numbers pose a threat to livestock.

“These are the kind of issues that my organization deals with in the trenches, day after day,” Schiff said. “Environmental regulations that ignore the law, bend it, or push vague statutory language to the limit, imposing damaging economic costs with environmental benefits that are uncertain at best.”

The unusual joint House and Senate hearing was chaired by Sen. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) and co-chaired by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) and Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.). Several other Republicans spoke at the hearing, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Reps. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

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