Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Volcanoes, copper and so much more - Bingaman's Omnibus Bill

A national volcano alert system and language allowing a controversial Arizona copper mine could be among the final bills Congress approves this year. The measures are two of the dozens of bills that Democrats may include in a massive omnibus that would create a host of new national parks, monuments and wilderness areas and pave the way for dozens of Western water projects. POLITICO obtained a draft version of the section circulated by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). Volcano monitoring briefly had a moment in the spotlight in early 2009 when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal singled it out as "wasteful spending" in the economic stimulus bill during the GOP response to President Barack Obama's budget speech to Congress. Alaskans from both parties protested that the funds are necessary to keep their state’s residents safe, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the bill to authorize $150 million for a national program over 10 years. The draft measure also includes language to move forward a massive Arizona copper mine on land that is currently part of the Tonto National Forest. Backed by Arizona Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl, it would allow Resolution Copper to exchange the land surrounding its proposed mine site for the company’s private holdings in the area. An earlier version of the legislation would have directed the Interior Department to make the exchange, but the Obama administration opposed that version and a subsequent committee compromise gives Interior final say on whether it goes forward. Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker stressed that his measure is a draft and said the final decision on what bills to include in the omnibus — or whether to push an omnibus at all — would be left to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "It's not soup until Chef Reid says it's soup," Wicker said. f Reid gives the OK, it would be joined with a package of bills from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Commerce Committee...more

Go here to view the draft bill.

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