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Legislative Weekly Report: Feb 21-Feb 27, 2011

February 27, 2011

submitted by Edward Raventon, lobbyist
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club

SB 180 (the pipeline reclamation bill) was killed in committee on Tuesday morning 5-2. It was not even a close vote. Senators Buhl and Adelstein voted for this piece of legislation and need to be commended. The proposed $30 million mitigation/reclamation fund was in my opinion pitifully small but nonetheless never got to see the light of day in the state Senate.

SB 158 a pro-industry, uranium mining bill that seeks to suspend the state’s DENR primacy regulatory authority on underground injection control Class III wells and in situ leach mining passed in the House State Affairs committee 5-8. The committee was heavily stacked with pro-business conservatives. Four of the Republicans on that committee were signed on as co-sponsors of that bill including Chairman Lust so those minds were already made up. All four Democrats voted against this piece of legislation along with one Republican. Again, this was disappointing.

This hearing was characterized by some curiously odd statements made by the two proponents. Mr. Hollenbeck, Powertech’s Edgemont representative, stated that he gives his four children fresh cow’s milk and believes that makes him “a radical environmentalist”. Mr. Larry Mann, Powertech’s lobbyist, contradicted himself stating, “how good of a job the state DENR does” but apparently, he would rather not have them watching Powertech’s operations too closely. He favors the EPA.

Regarding the EPA, Ms. Rebecca Leas, an opponent who testified against this bill, stated that the EPA has only one representative in their Denver regional office that has to cover all the uranium industry’s mining activity in six western states. She further added that she had a very difficult time actually making contact with this representative and talking to him on the telephone. To say the local EPA is stretched thin may be the understatement of the entire session. If they were stretched any thinner, they would be invisible.

SB 158 goes to the House Floor next week and if it passes will go on to the Governor’s desk for signing or veto. Call or email your district legislators stating that you oppose SB 158 and “believe it’s in the best interests of the people of the state and their health to keep local DENR regulatory control in monitoring the uranium mining industry in the Black Hills.”

Other bills of ancillary interest:

HB 1178, an act “to restrict the entry of conservation officers onto certain private land without permission” was soundly defeated 48 nays to 21 yeas yet again on the House Floor this week. Apparently, this piece of legislation will ultimately require a silver bullet or have a stake driven in its heart to keep it from coming back next year.

We did help to stop two very bad bills that would have made it difficult to pass on conservation easements to willing buyers and/or heirs. We also encouraged the beginning of some good tax equalization legislation that will give a break to people who keep their land in grass. This will be important legislation in the future with the great surge in demand for corn, soybean and wheat products.

Thank you all for your support this session. This will be my last posting.


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