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Privatizing the American West

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  • Denise Bensusan
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/26/opinion/26sat3.html?th&emc=th Some more details concerning the mining discussion... Privatizing the American West Published:
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2005
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/26/opinion/26sat3.html?th&emc=th
      Some more details concerning the mining discussion...

      Privatizing the American West
      Published: November 26, 2005
      While lawmakers are in recess, it is worth reflecting on one particular part of the mess they have left behind. Last week, a budget bill scraped through the House, 217 to 215. Democrats and moderate Republicans had already stripped a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But the House bill left intact an evil trap to be sprung on the American public: Richard Pombo's plan to put a few hundred million acres of publicly owned land up for sale in the American West.

      Mr. Pombo, Republican of California, is head of the House Resources Committee and has long been determined to privatize as much of the West as he can lay his hands on. His bill would allow the holders of mining claims to buy the land outright instead of leasing it - a substantial revision of the current practice. He argues that his proposal would merely adjust laws and affect only about 360,000 acres where mining claims are currently being developed or explored.

      But the bill is so vaguely drawn that at least 6 million acres of public land, and possibly as much as 350 million acres, could wind up in the hands of private buyers. These buyers need to express only the intent to develop a mineral claim without any need to demonstrate commercial mining potential. Once the land is bought, it can be developed as the owners see fit. This is a blatant fraud on the American people, expressed in bland legislative legalese. The question is, Who is going to stop it?

      The bill has to clear a few more hurdles before becoming the law of the land - a House-Senate conference committee and final votes in the House and the Senate. In the best of all possible worlds, the House negotiators would reject the worst aspects of the Senate bill, which authorizes drilling in the Arctic refuge, and the Senate negotiators would reject the worst aspects of the House version, including Mr. Pombo's outrageous raid on the public lands.

      This is not the long shot it might have seemed as recently as a week ago. Americans have come to understand that America can't drill its way out of dependency on Middle Eastern oil, and that ravaging the Arctic is no substitute for sound energy policy. They also understand that Mr. Pombo's sleight of hand is little more than legislative robbery.

      Denise

      Denise Bensusan
      Citizens for Future Generations
      SPEAK OUT ARIZONA
      http://www.frontiernet.net/~denise.bensusan/index.html/

      "War ... should only be declared by the authority
      of the people, whose toils and treasures are to
      support its burdens, instead of the government
      which is to reap its fruits." ~ : James Madison (1751-1836)



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