California Democrat threatens small-scale mining
6/22/2012 10:23 AM
CONCORD, Calif., June 21, 2012 – Gold Pan California
, a gold prospecting supply shop located in the Bay Area, is shining light on a California State Budget loophole which is being exploited by Legislators to enact last minute laws on pet projects and further increase California's budget deficit.
"Californian's have no idea how much their local legislators are really costing the state," says Mike Dunn, owner of Gold Pan California. "Through secret use of budget trailer bills, Legislators are feverishly creating last minute laws with no bill numbers and no accountability or fiscal responsibility for these new laws."
In this instance, Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is in the glare of Dunn's spotlight. (see photo)
Budget Trailer Bills are intended for the implementation of fiscal decisions, and statutory changes to implement those decisions are constitutionally due to the Legislature by Feb. 1, five months before the budget deadline of June 15.
Yet, three weeks ago Huffman inserted four paragraphs of new "language" i.e., statutory changes, into a 100-page resources folder, which will be given a trailer bill number and presented to the Governor shortly. Governor Brown does not have line-item veto authority in this scenario.
This last minute legislation-by-default totally circumvents participation by the public. Equally wrong, it absolves the Legislator from any financial consequences or accountability for the legislation, since his name isn't on it. Numerous calls to Huffman's office have gone unanswered this week.
The practice of stuffing trailer bills is familiar among gold prospectors. Huffman also used the tactic during the 2011 budget countdown.
Modern day gold prospecting is conducted by suction dredging underwater. Huffman's 2011 trailer bill legislation caused a temporary moratorium on suction dredging for gold until 2016. His current trailer bill language would essentially ban the practice forever.
Suction dredging for gold is touted as being environmentally harmful by the Karuk tribe and environmentalists. Curiously, the same anti-mining foes are seeking $9 million from California taxpayers to dredge for mercury in the State waterways. Dredging is legal in virtually every waterway, year round for numerous purposes - unless, that is, you're dredging for gold. That's outlawed in the Golden State.
The news gets worse for California taxpayers if the new language becomes law. The State is involved in seven lawsuits between gold prospectors and anti-mining foes. Those lawsuits have been active since 2005, and if Huffman's trailer bill language is schlepped over to the Governor, the State will be committed to spending untold amounts on future litigation, before the current multimillion dollar lawsuits are settled.
There are 56,000 gold claims in California, with just 6 being in Huffman's district. The title of Huffman's four paragraphs is "Suction dredge cleanup language."
"If I were one of his local constituents," states Dunn, "I would be quite interested in seeing what else was being crammed in unnamed envelopes during the late-night budget negotiations."
With seven lawsuits already underway and deep budget cuts on the imminent horizon, hopefully Huffman will pull his four paragraphs out of the budget trailer bill to save the few million dollars for badly needed social services or education.
About Gold Pan California:
The company was founded in 2008 by Mike Dunn, an international gold mining specialist who has been suction dredge gold mining for 34 years.
LANGUAGE CONTAINED IN TRAILER BILL SUCTION DREDGING:
The Resources Omnibus Trailer Bill of 2011 included an item regarding the use of suction dredge equipment in waterways of the state. The language inadvertently created a confusing requirement both to create a temporary moratorium and require an environmental review of the practice, with an arbitrary timeframe for both. On April 25, the Subcommittee directed staff to develop budget trailer language to clarify the Legislative intent in this regard. Specifically, staff was asked to draft language that would:
1. Remove the 2016 sunset in order to provide time needed to identify new regulations that meet environmental standards and reduce confusion about status of the program. This would have the effect of putting in place a functional moratorium until new regulations addressing environmental impacts, and a new fee schedule covering all reasonable costs, are developed.
2. Ask DFG to consult with other agencies, such as the Water Board, Department of Public Health and the Native American Heritage Commission, and report back to the Legislature with recommendations as to what additional authorities or statutory changes would be necessary to develop suction dredge regulations that would mitigate all environmental impacts, and make recommendations for a fee schedule that would cover all program costs.
To wit, staff has prepared the following trailer bill language for the Subcommittee to consider: Amend Section 5653.1(b) to read as follows:
5653.1 (b)Notwithstanding Section 5653, the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment in any river, stream, or lake of this state is prohibited until June 30, 2016, or until the director certifies to the Secretary of State that all of the following have occurred, whichever is earlier:
(1) The department has completed the environmental review of its existing suction dredge mining regulations, as ordered by the court in the case of Karuk Tribe of California et al. v. California Department of Fish and Game et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG 05211597.
(2) The department has transmitted for filing with the Secretary of State pursuant to Section 11343 of the Government Code, a certified copy of new regulations adopted, as necessary, pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.
(3) The new regulations described in paragraph (2) are operative.
(4) The new regulations described in paragraph (2) fully mitigate all identified significant environmental impacts.
(5) A fee structure is in place that will fully cover all costs to the department related to the administration of the program.
Add the following:
The Department shall consult with other agencies as necessary, including but not necessarily limited to, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Public Health, and the Native American Heritage commission, and report back to the Legislature with recommendations as to any additional statutory changes or authorities that may be necessary to develop suction dredge regulations that would meet all the requirements of 5653.1(b), including mitigation of all identified significant environmental impacts and a fee structure that will fully cover all program costs.