Articles Posted in Legislation

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By Kerry Shapiro and Dan Quinley

On September 9, 2021, the House Environmental and Natural Resources (“ENR”) Committee finished its mark-up of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget measure. Inserted at the very end of the 117-page mark-up is Section 70807: Hardrock Mining, which is a quiet attempt to reform the Mining Law of 1872.

The ENR Committee’s change would, for the first time, impose fixed royalties on all locatable minerals mined on Federal land. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, minerals, mineral concentrates, or products derived from locatable minerals, would be subject to royalty fees at the following rates:

  • 8% for all new mining operations
  • 8% for all new federal land added by plan modification to existing mining operations
  • 4% for mining operations with an existing approved plan of operations, or who submitted a plan of operations prior to the effective date of the legislation

All royalty percentages would be calculated based on gross income derived from mining. Continue reading

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By Kerry Shapiro and Martin Stratte

On January 20, 2021, President Biden’s first day in office, Acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega issued Secretarial Order No. 3395 (Order), which temporarily suspends decision-making authority delegated to Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureaus and Offices, such as the Bureau of Land Management. The Order will be in effect for at least 60 days.

According to the DOI website, the Order, while in effect, reserves decision-making authority for “Department leadership” described in the Order as “confirmed or Acting official[s]” who hold certain positions enumerated in the Order. The positions to which decision-making authority is reserved include the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Solicitor, and six Assistant Secretaries identified in the Order.

Thus, the Order suspends the decision-making authority of DOI Bureaus and Offices, and restricts such authority to a select few high-level DOI officials who have been or will be put in place by the Biden Administration, until after the Administration has had at least 60 days to appoint new, and evaluate existing, officials within DOI Bureaus and Offices. Continue reading

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On December 9, 2020, the California Energy Commission (CEC) appointed nine members of the new Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction in California (Lithium Valley Commission).  The appointments were made pursuant to Assembly Bill 1657 (Garcia, Chapter 271, 2020) (AB 1657), which was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 29, 2020.

AB 1657 requires the CEC to establish the Lithium Valley Commission to review, investigate, and analyze issues and potential incentives regarding lithium extraction and use in California, and submit a report to the Legislature documenting its findings and recommendations, on or before October 1, 2022.  AB 1657 also authorizes the CEC to appoint nine of the 14 members of the Lithium Valley Commission.

The nine members appointed on December 9, 2020 include:

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On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, San Francisco and six other Bay Area counties and one city each issued a virtually identical Shelter-in-Place Order (collectively, the “Order”) that is, in many ways, more restrictive than (i) Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Stay-Home Executive Order N-33-20, and (ii) San Francisco’s March 16, 2020 Shelter-In-Place Order.

In particular, the Order limits the scope of certain construction-related activities previously exempt under those prior orders, and mandates the implementation of new “Social Distancing Protocols” for Essential Businesses still operating, which must be in place by April 2, 2020.

Who issued the Order? The Order was issued by the following seven counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, City and County of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma (who issued the Order late Tuesday evening, after the other six counties)—and one city—City of Berkeley. Although the counties and cities each independently issued an Order, the text is nearly, if not completely, identical.

What does the Order do? The Order establishes stricter limits on business operations, including a narrower scope of construction authorized to continue under the Order, and requires a business to “cease all activities” in Bay Area locations subject to the Order, unless the business qualifies as an “Essential Business”. (Although non-Essential Businesses are allowed to continue “Minimum Basic Operations” necessary to maintain certain activities such as payroll.)

How are construction materials companies affected? Construction materials companies may qualify as “Essential Businesses,” as long as those companies “support or supply” other “Essential Businesses” with “supplies necessary to operate”. Continue reading

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This blog provides important updates to the analysis in our March 20 and March 23 blogs addressing the impact on workers in the construction and industrial materials industries of Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) mandating, subject to certain exceptions, that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home.”

For background, the Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) were exempt and thus may continue to work. CISA previously identified those 16 sectors in a March 19, 2020 Memorandum entitled, “Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” (“CISA Memorandum”).

Although clarifications regarding the applicability of the Order to workers in the construction materials industry were issued by the State Public Health Officer on March 22 (see March 23 blog), no corresponding clarification was expressly issued with respect to the industrial materials industry.

Update affecting the industrial materials industry and its workers:

  • As we previously reported in our March 20 blog, the treatment under the CISA Memorandum of workers employed by industrial material producers and suppliers, whose materials are not used in construction materials, was somewhat unclear.
  • However, on March 28, 2020, CISA issued an Advisory Memorandum identifying an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” list, which specifically identifies “Workers necessary for the manufacturing of … industrial minerals”. The key language is shown on page 13 of 15 of the Advisory Memorandum at the first bullet point under Critical Manufacturing.
  • The Advisory Memorandum thus clarifies that the industrial materials industry and its workers are a part of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by CISA, and therefore exempt from the Order’s stay-home mandate, even if the industrial materials are not used in construction materials.

Continue reading

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This blog provides important updates to the analysis in our prior blog addressing the impact on workers in the construction materials industry of Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) mandating, subject to certain exceptions, that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home.”

For background, the Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency were exempt and thus may continue to work. On March 20, the State’s COVID-19 website clarified that the exemption from the Order applied to construction activity, including housing construction. Although this clarification was very helpful, the Order remained somewhat uncertain regarding the status of  construction materials industry workers. Late on Friday, March 20, the State Public Health Officer (“SPHO”) issued a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to be exempt from the Order, and thus allowed to continue working, to ensure “continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” Again, very helpful, but did not specifically address construction materials.

On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the SPHO issued important updates (“Updates”) to the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” directly addressing the construction materials industry. Specifically, the Updates confirm that:

    1. Essential Workforce for Public Works includes construction materials suppliers; and
    2. Essential Workforce for Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions include workers who provider services related to construction materials sources.

Continue reading

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On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) “ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence”.  As discussed below, the Order allows workers in certain industry sectors to continue working.

There are several categories of workers who may continue to work under the Order.

  • The Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) may continue to work.
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An Overview of CalCIMA’s Current Judicial, Legislative, and Regulatory Activities

by Kerry Shapiro, General Counsel to CalCIMA and Chair of JMBM’s Natural Resources and Mining Group
and
Martin Stratte

This article was first published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Conveyor, a publication of the 
California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA), and is published with permission.

2019 has been an active year for CalCIMA, as its members remain busy supplying the materials necessary to build our homes, roads, and critical public infrastructure projects.  To ensure its members may continue to do so successfully, CalCIMA has stepped forward in response to a number of legal, legislative and regulatory developments that threaten to increase the challenges facing its members doing business in California.

Below is an overview, from the perspective of CalCIMA’s legal counsel, of some of CalCIMA’s most important legal activities undertaken in 2019.  They include the following:

  • Ventura County Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Litigation
  • John D. Sweeney v. State Water Resources Control Board and San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board Amicus Brief
  • Waters of the State Rulemaking Proceedings
  • Pending Amendments to Riverside County Mining Ordinance
  • Point San Pedro Road Coalition v. County of Marin (San Rafael Rock Quarry, Inc.) Amicus Letter of Support
  • Various Legislative Activities

Litigation Challenging Ventura County Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor

At the top of the list is CalCIMA’s efforts to protect regionally significant mineral resources through proactive litigation.  In March 2019, Ventura County adopted its Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Project, which amends its general plan and zoning code and imposes new land use restrictions, including restrictions on land located within 200 feet of “surface water features”.  The reported purpose of the Project is to protect wildlife, namely mountain lions, by restricting land use and development on public and private lands that have been included within the Project’s overlay zone.  In total, the Project includes more than 160,000 acres of land.

The Project also overlaps onto more than 13,000 acres of mineral resources that were previously classified and/or designated by the California Geological Survey (CGS) and State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB), respectively.  Notably, the SMGB designation process was subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and therefore, required the preparation of an environmental impact report and related studies.

Despite the Project’s inclusion of 13,000+ acres of classified and/or designated mineral resources, which are a natural resource protected under CEQA (like air, water, and wildlife), the County approved the Project without (i) consulting with either CGS or SMGB in accordance with sections 2762 and 2763 of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), or (ii) undertaking a CEQA analysis of the Project’s environmental impacts, including the impacts to mineral resources.

In approving the Project without environmental review, the County invoked the class 7 and 8 CEQA exemptions for projects intended to protect natural resources and the environment.  (14 CCR §§ 15307, 15308.)  The County also rejected multiple written requests from CGS to discuss the Project and its potential impacts to important mineral resources prior to approval.

During the public hearing process in early 2019, CalCIMA submitted two detailed comment letters outlining its concerns with the County’s lack of compliance with SMARA and CEQA.  However, the County maintained its position that the Project was exempt from CEQA and that consultation with CGS regarding the potential impacts to the 13,000+ acres of classified and/or designated mineral resources was not required. Continue reading

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By Kerry Shapiro

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order with potentially wide-ranging implications for the mining industry and many other affected stakeholders. The order directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) to review national monuments, particularly those larger than 100,000 acres, that were designated since January 1, 1996, and to recommend if any of those designations should be modified, resized or rescinded.

The Bears Ears National Monument Controversy

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California Mining Update

AB 1142 and SB 209: What operators need to know about SMARA modernization
Changes will be effective January 1, 2017

by
Kerry Shapiro


This article was first published in The Conveyor magazine, a publication of CalCIMA.

On April 18, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that together provide the most significant update to the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) in 25 years.  Assembly Bill (AB) 1142 (Gray) and Senate Bill (SB) 209 (Pavley) are the outgrowth of more modest changes in recent years, and of a promise by the Governor, in 2013, to reform SMARA from “top to bottom.”  Although the bills are not effective until January 1, 2017, operators must be aware of their changes and start planning for their implementation.

Most important in the near term are changes to SMARA’s inspections process, financial assurance approval process, reclamation plan requirements, and inspector qualifications.

Inspections Process

Beginning in 2017, operators must request, on their annual reports, an inspection date within 12 months of their prior inspection.  For inspections conducted in 2016, the 12-month date will be triggered for 2017.

Financial Assurances

The annual inspection date is the starting point for wholly new annual financial assurance review and approval processes.  Note the plural—under AB 1142 and SB 209, SMARA will now have (1) a process for financial assurance cost estimates (FACEs) for new or amended reclamation plans and (2) another process for annual FACE updates.  Each process sets new steps and deadlines that are tied to the annual inspection date.  Moreover, each process provides the Department of Conservation (DOC) a new right to formally consult with lead agencies and operators during the FACE review process, and to give DOC a new right to appeal a lead agency’s approval of a FACE.  Annual financial assurance review was already a SMARA requirement, but the new legislation formalizes the review process to provide greater clarity and transparency.

Corporate self-bonding is now permitted for companies worth more than $35 million, subject to regulations which will be approved by the SMGB.  Multiple operations can combine their assets to pass the financial test, but self-bonding is limited to 75% of the value of an operator’s FACE(s). Continue reading