Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How the new political dynamics in Washington affect mining

The public approval rating of Congress is in low double digits, and Katie Sweeney is surprised that it's that high.  Katie is General Counsel for the National Mining Association and gave the dinner presentation last night to the annual meeting of the Arizona Mining Association Board in Sedona.     She described a Congress that has been deadlocked for more than a year in anticipation of this year's elections.   As a result, the political dynamics in Washington DC are much different than what we're used to.  Instead of groups pushing legislation to advance their agendas, the focus has shifted to trying to affect policy changes through regulations and actions by Executive Branch agencies, including those addressing mining and related issues.

One example is the Secretary of Interior's administrative withdrawal of 1 million acres of federal lands in northern Arizona from exploration and development.   Katie said that anti-mining and environmental groups see this a breakthrough approach that can be used in many other situations.

Currently there are four lawsuits filed against the Secretary's decision, with NMA party to one of those.  The judge hearing them has consolidated them into one.  In October, the judge will consider requests from supporters of the mining ban to toss out the suits.    If the suits go forward, the plaintiffs will be asking for a judgement on constitutional grounds (if I understand correctly, the basis is that the argument that the Secretary cannot take such significant actions without Congressional authorization).  Otherwise, the case could revolve around the scientific bases for the decision and become a lengthy debate.  [Right, uranium exploration core hole in northern Arizona. Credit, Vane Minerals].    Thus, it seems to me that the Arizona uranium case could have much wider ramifications.

Regardless of which party wins the White House, a divided Congress is a good possibility, with legislation stymied.  If that's the case, the present situation may be the new normal.

1 comment:

  1. After a career in the Energy Business, I have deduced some personal observations about energy, politics, & the businesses involved. Mining (coal, uranium, & oil) fueled America during the 1980s & 1990s, Nat Gas as a major influence is coming on strong. Also, being relatively heavily involved in Politics, I make these comments. Oil, Coal, & Uranium, the more labor intense extractions always seem more in favor during Republican Administrations and Nat Gas is more favored by Democrats. Libertarians don't even like themselves, so we get no reasonable input for discussion there. I base a lot of my theory on the number of people working in the industries, the number of new hires, and the wages paid. Right now, workers at refineries are less in demand, the pay scale is stagnant or going down, but in the Nat Gas Fields, wages are skyrocketing, job openings are begging, and plans for expansion are on hold in a lot of cases. Because, a complete & compact breakout of statistics in Gov. Reports is impossible, some of this is hard to ferret out. But being in the trenches started the train of thought. Politics have always and will always play a part in how we move in the fields of energy.