Fisheries in the fray

While NMFS Director Chris Oliver assured the audience at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle this fall that the Trump administration is supportive of his fishing friendly agenda, threats to fishery habitat and fishing grounds loom large under the new regime at EPA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reopened the door for Pebble Ltd. to push through a mining plan that would threaten the headwaters of the world’s largest wild salmon run.

Then on Dec. 1, Pruitt announced that modern mining practices along with state and federal statutes adequately address the risks of operating hard-rock mines (like Pebble). EPA no longer requires mining companies to set aside funds to clean up their own messes. Asking more from the mining companies “would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy,” Pruitt said.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the EPA spent more than a billion dollars cleaning up abandoned hard-rock mining and processing sites across the country over the five-year period from 2010-14.

Is it asking too much of mining companies to require them to provide collateral for an inherently risky business? I think this is how we ended up with a subprime mortgage disaster. “No collateral? No problem! We don’t want to make it too hard for you.” That model has a history of failure on a grand scale. Even a small leak of toxic byproduct can have devastating long-term effects that ripple far beyond financial hardship.

I’m all for relaxing some minor regulations that prevent small businesses from competing with the big cats. By all means, let’s do what we can to level the playing field for self-driven Americans to make their own way.

Mining is a very lucrative (and large-scale) business. If it weren’t, who would take on the risks of environmental damage and worker safety? I don’t think we’re asking too much to make sure large mining companies can cut checks to clean up their own inevitable messes.

Meanwhile, as we go to press, we are waiting to hear about the Trump administration’s proposal to increase oil and gas drilling off the East Coast and in the Arctic seas.

The pending Astro (Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore) Act would give the Interior Secretary (Ryan Zinke at press time) the authority to hold lease auctions on tracts that fall outside of the Obama-era drilling plan. That plan made 6 percent of the outer continental shelf available for lease to oil and gas companies. The Astro Act would bypass that plan as well as due process and public oversight of offshore leasing. It would also combine the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which was created in response to departmental failures when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated Gulf of Mexico fisheries (and tourism).

But the economics of offshore drilling may keep investments at bay regardless of availability — for now. The 2008 record of $147 a barrel is small in the rearview. The five-year average price per barrel has hovered around $60. Prices go up only as inventory decreases, which is hardly incentive to drill, baby, drill.

Meanwhile, wild fish continues to rise in value, along with utilization, fuel efficiency, bycatch reduction and advances in processing. In short, you’re killing it.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman.

  • TK

    “According to the Chicago Tribune, the EPA spent more than a billion dollars cleaning up abandoned hard-rock mining and processing sites across the country over the five-year period from 2010-14.
    Is it asking too much of mining companies to require them to provide collateral for an inherently risky business? I think this is how we ended up with a subprime mortgage disaster.”

    A classic straw man distraction argument; without current merit or bearing on
    the situation.

    The mining reclamation fund is derived from fees and taxes upon current mines. Not EPA funds. EPA spent over a billion $ derived from mining, often without professional mining/geology experts.

    EPA is also responsible for the recent largest mining pollution disaster. A disaster that EPA has not held their employees responsible for, nor made good to the communities whose waters they poisoned.

    Nor is comparing impacts of long defunct mines and their mining sites cleaning costs to modern mining rational.

    Otherwise, all commercial operations should be judged by their 19th century counterparts. Modern commercial fishing would be judged by the practices of their 19th century whaling predecessors.

    EPA’s costs are the costs of a bloated bureaucracy where activists ignored expert advice. Professional, EPA is not. Nor is EPA responsible for mines and mining operations.

    Citing EPA as responsible mining is irresponsible. Perhaps EPA’s next regulatory overreach will include commercial fishing vessels…

    Modern mines and mining operations are not the mines of the 19th and early 20th century.
    Modern mines must adhere to a plethora of laws, acquire permits, obtain certifications, meet safety and pass OSHA inspections; then return the lands to a pre-mining state.

    Mining is essential to modern civilization. Period!
    Shut down mining and modern civilization collapses.
    Make it extremely difficult or prohibitively expensive to mine and the cost of living skyrockets.

    EPA is just one of the many bureaucracy oversights. EPA is/was an activist infested agency that lost sight of their actual mission several decades ago. As actual pollution declined, EPA sought greater
    reach, oversight and power.

    Mining is controlled by several Federal agencies along with state and regional agencies.
    Mining along with mining’s safety, operations, wastes, pollution, recovery and reclamation are controlled by laws!
    Not EPA regulations.

    Department of the Interior is the primary agency responsible for mining: https://www.doi.gov/ , e.g. https://www.osmre.gov/LRG.shtm

    DOI’s sub department that is also responsible is Bureau or Land Management

    Permits, responsibilities, safety, pollution controls, reclamation are defined by law! https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=503db7cde567d758018ceb3d08f1756b&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title30/30cfrv3_02.tpl#0

    Hyperventilating because mainstream media ignorantly misrepresents mines, mining and mining oversight is irresponsible.

    EPA injected themselves into the original Pebble Mine project. Instead of providing guidance on how best to keep the mine operations safe, clean, pollution free, etc. EPA accepted and officially installed
    activist screeds treating potential Pebble mining operations as equivalent to 1850 coal/gold mines. EPA is not a normal part of mining permitting process. EPA seized some Army Corps of Engineers responsibilities.

    The actual mining proposal going forward is available here: https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretary-zinke-announces-plan-unleashing-americas-offshore-oil-and-gas-potential

    Note that, as all mines, mining, drilling there are official “public input cycles” where comments and expertise are accepted and taken under consideration. e.g. Zinke’s statement in the proposal; “Release of the DPP is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final National OCS Program for 2019-2024. Today’s draft proposal was informed by approximately 816,000 comments from a wide variety of stakeholders, including state governments, federal agencies, public interest groups, industry, and the public.”

    Oil/gas prospecting and drilling is expensive, offshore drilling is multiply expensive. Foolish drilling attempts will bankrupt companies and lose investor funding.

    Defunct companies are still responsible for safely closing operations, capping any wells or well attempts. It’s part of the DOI Federal government and state permitting/bond process.

    Nor do current low prices for crude/gas dissuade companies from investing into their future. All oil companies know Saudi Arabia is flooding the market trying to drive competitors out of business.

    Even Saudi Arabia will have to restrict their output as their reserves dwindle. Expensive wells become profitable when prices rise. The only question is when Saudi Arabia either runs out or reduces their output.

    America has known fossil fuel reserves to support us for over a century. Additional reserves, especially reserves at disparate locations improve America’s long term energy use and America’s immediate national security.

    “Meanwhile, wild fish continues to rise in value, along with utilization, fuel efficiency, bycatch reduction and advances in processing. In short, you’re killing it.”
    A powerful emotive statement that is vague and quite unclear.
    Who/whom is killing what!?
    Killing wild fish value?
    Killing utilization? Fuel efficiency? Bycatch reduction? Processing advances?

    Offshore wells and mining efforts operate successfully worldwide without harming fisheries. Instead the towers and structures provide fish habitats; e.g. Gulf Coast fisheries.

    Not even the media hyped Gulf BP disaster harmed fishing or fish. Within two years, operations in the Gulf were back to pre-disaster levels.

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