News Article | February 15, 2017
All amounts expressed in U.S. dollars TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 15, 2017) - Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:ABX)(TSX:ABX) ("Barrick" or the "Company") today reported progress on projects with the potential to contribute up to 1.1 million ounces of gold production at Cortez, Goldrush, Lagunas Norte, and Turquoise Ridge. The Company has also initiated a prefeasibility study to evaluate the construction of an underground mine at Lama, on the Argentinean side of the Pascua-Lama project. Optimization work in Chile remains underway. All projects go through a rigorous, independent peer review process led by our Evaluations team. In keeping with our Best-in-Class approach, at every stage of the investment review process we challenge assumptions, incorporate improvements, and evaluate alternative development scenarios to maximize value creation. We measure our projects against a 15 percent hurdle rate, using a long-term gold price of $1,200 per ounce. They are then ranked, prioritized, and sequenced to optimize capital spending over time, allowing us to anticipate and plan for funding requirements. For certain related risk factors, please see the cautionary statement on forward-looking information at the end of this press release. Project Overview: Expand underground mining into Deep South area, below currently permitted levels The Deep South project, located within the Lower Zone of the Cortez Hills underground mine, remains on track to contribute average underground production of more than 300,000 ounces per year between 2022 and 2026. Development of the range front twin declines that will provide access to the lower zone of the mine began in the fourth quarter of 2016. For the first time, the mine is using a roadheader-a piece of machinery that employs mechanical cutting to facilitate continuous tunnel boring, rather than traditional drilling and blasting. The prefeasibility study anticipated a cost of sales of $840 per ounce, and average all-in sustaining costs2 of $580 per ounce, for mining in the Deep South zone. Optimization work underway as part of the feasibility study has identified a number of opportunities to reduce these costs, including through the use of autonomous loading with a smart conveyance system, compared to a traditional conveyor system contemplated in the prefeasibility study. Initial capital costs for the project remain unchanged, and are estimated to be $153 million. The expansion will enable the Company to access approximately 1.9 million ounces of proven and probable reserves3 in the Deep South zone, of which more than 80 percent are oxide. Permitting was initiated in 2016 with the submission of an amendment to the current Mine Plan of Operations to the Bureau of Land Management. The permitting process is expected to take approximately three to four years, including the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. A record of decision is expected in 2019 or 2020. On this basis, dewatering and development work could begin as early as 2019 or 2020, with initial production from Deep South commencing in 2022 or 2023. We expect to complete the feasibility study by the end of 2017, which will focus on processing, backfill, and stope sequencing to optimize free cash flow. Project Overview: Development of an underground mine at Goldrush The Goldrush project continues to advance according to schedule, with the potential to become Barrick's newest mine in Nevada by 2021. Average annual production for the first full five years of operation is expected to be approximately 450,000 ounces of gold. Goldrush is expected to have a mine life of 21 years, with first production as early as 2021, and sustained production in 2023. The prefeasibility study anticipated a cost of sales of $800 per ounce, and average all-in sustaining costs2 of $620 per ounce; and we have identified opportunities to further reduce operating costs. We continue to anticipate initial capital costs of approximately $1 billion. Goldrush now has 9.6 million ounces of measured and indicated gold resources3, and 1.9 million ounces of inferred gold resources.3 During 2016, we obtained the necessary permits for the construction of twin exploration declines. This will enable further drilling of the ore body in support of the feasibility study, including the conversion of measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves. The twin decline portal access site has been cleared, and work is expected to begin on the portal pad in the first quarter of 2017. We are also carrying out additional surface exploration drilling in the Red Hill zone, the shallowest portion of the Goldrush deposit. Permitting is expected to commence in 2018, initiating a three- to four-year Environmental Impact Statement process. Underground development and production activities would commence following receipt of permits. The Goldrush deposit remains open in a number of directions. In addition, the Company continues to drill at the highly prospective Fourmile target, just north of the Goldrush discovery. Project Overview: Optimization of carbonaceous oxide ore recovery, and installation of refractory ore processing circuit We are now evaluating a sequenced approach to extending the life of the Lagunas Norte mine by first optimizing the recovery of carbonaceous oxide ore contained in existing stockpiles, followed by extraction and processing of refractory ores. The prefeasibility study for the Refractory Ore project contemplated an initial capital investment of approximately $640 million for the installation of a 6,000 tonnes per day grinding-flotation-autoclave and carbon-in-leach processing circuit to treat refractory material. Once ramped up, the circuit has the potential to produce an average of 240,000 ounces of gold per year at a cost of sales of approximately $1,080 per ounce and all-in sustaining costs2 of $625 per ounce. Over the past year, Lagunas Norte has developed a process to treat certain carbonaceous oxide material already stockpiled at the mine through heap leaching, helping to bridge the gap between processing of oxide and refractory materials. This has created an opportunity to first construct a grinding and carbon-in-leach processing circuit that would treat the remaining carbonaceous oxide material at the site. This would allow us to defer the construction of the flotation and pressure oxidation circuits required for treating refractory ore, optimizing the timing of capital expenditures. Engineering for the grinding and carbon-in-leach circuits is underway at a feasibility level, and will be available for Investment Committee review by the end of 2017. Pending a positive investment decision and receipt of permits, construction of these facilities could begin in late 2018, with first production in 2020. Following this, and subject to Environmental Impact Assessment approval, construction of the refractory ore processing facilities (flotation and pressure oxidation circuits) could begin as early as 2020, with first production in 2023. Project Overview: Expand underground mining through construction of an additional production shaft We continue to advance a phased approach to expansion at Barrick's 75 percent owned Turquoise Ridge mine that maximizes free cash flow from the operation, while optimizing the timing of capital spending for expansion. Through the development of a third shaft, the mine has the potential to increase output to an average of 500,000 ounces per year (100 percent basis) from existing reserves at a cost of sales of $750-$800 per ounce, and all-in sustaining costs2 of about $625-$675 per ounce. The project would require capital expenditures of approximately $300-$325 million (100 percent basis) for additional underground development and shaft construction. The first phase of expansion has been focused on leveraging Best-in-Class initiatives to maximize productivity from the existing mine infrastructure, with strong results. Turquoise Ridge recorded its highest-ever level of production in 2016, producing 355,000 ounces of gold (100 percent basis), at a cost of sales applicable to gold of $593 per ounce, and all-in sustaining costs2 of $618 per ounce. Average throughput increased by 40 percent, from 1,500 tonnes per day in 2015, to 2,100 tonnes per day in 2016. Improvements in mining intensity and reliability have been driven by upgrades to underground ventilation systems, increasing top cut mining widths, greater equipment standardization, and better maintenance. Additional Best-in-Class initiatives under evaluation include the introduction of continuous mining, increased automation, additional ventilation modifications, and alternative mining methods. Based on the rapid pace of improvement at the mine, we are evaluating whether to proceed directly to the construction of a third production shaft, instead of the installation of a new ventilation shaft, which was previously contemplated as the second phase of the mine expansion. All necessary permits for a third production shaft are already in place. At the end of 2016, the Turquoise Ridge mine had four million ounces of gold in reserves (75 percent basis)3 at an average grade of 15.1 grams per tonne-the highest reserve grade in the Company's operating portfolio, and among the highest in the entire gold industry. The mine also has 3.0 million ounces of measured gold resources3, and 6.5 million ounces of indicated gold resources (75 percent basis).3 The Turquoise Ridge deposit remains open to the northeast, with significant potential to add additional reserves and resources through drilling. Following a detailed review of multiple development options for Pascua Lama in 2016, both open-pit and underground, we have initiated a prefeasibility study to evaluate the construction of an underground mine at Lama. The study will evaluate the use of low-cost bulk mining methods, including sub-level cave and block cave mining, designed to target higher-value ore on the Argentinean side of the border in the initial stages of the operation. Cash flow from Lama could support a staged development that would, over time, incorporate ore from the Chilean side of the border, subject to additional permitting in Chile. Efforts in Chile this year will focus on advancing project concepts in parallel with the Lama study, with the intention of moving to a prefeasibility level study in 2018. Conceptually, initial ore processing at Lama would be undertaken using one of three partially completed processing streams at the site, with a capacity of approximately 15,000 tonnes per day. Existing infrastructure could be scaled up to 25,000 tonnes per day at a later date. An underground mine would reduce the surface footprint of the operation and would be less susceptible to weather-related production interruptions during the winter season. Estimated capital costs for the project will be available following the completion of the prefeasibility study. Based on scoping work, the returns of the Lama project deteriorate if initial capital is much more than $1.5 billion. Returns are also dependent on the ability to access Chilean ore sources in future phases of the project. If we cannot build the project at an attractive return, we will not pursue it. As part of the prefeasibility study, we will be evaluating opportunities to leverage innovation and new technology to strengthen the economics of the project, in addition to potential synergies with the nearby Veladero mine. Assuming a positive prefeasibility study result, permitting could begin in 2018. The timing of first production would depend on multiple factors, including permitting timelines, funding requirements, and a decision to proceed with the project. Beyond Pascua-Lama, we are evaluating an integrated development strategy for the Frontera District, which includes Veladero and Alturas. At the Alturas project in Chile, we have added an additional 1.1 million ounces of inferred gold resources, bringing the total inferred resource to 6.8 million ounces.3 We expect to complete a scoping study for the project in 2017. Ultimately, our objective is to capitalize on the significant growth potential of this highly prolific and prospective district, leveraging our existing footprint and infrastructure in the region, as a platform for long-term value creation. The following qualified persons, as that term is defined in National Instrument 43-101 - Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects, have prepared or supervised the preparation of their relevant portions of the technical information described in this press release: Certain information contained or incorporated by reference in this press release, including any information as to our strategy, projects, plans or future financial or operating performance, constitutes "forward-looking statements". All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements. The words "believe", "expect", "anticipate", "contemplate", "target", "plan", "objective", "intend", "project", "continue", "budget", "estimate", "potential", "may", "will", "can", "could" and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. In particular, this press release contains forward-looking statements including, without limitation, with respect to: potential improvements to financial and operating performance and mine life at Barrick's Cortez, Lagunas Norte and Turquoise Ridge mines; potential developments at Barrick's Goldrush and Pascua Lama projects; estimates of future cost of sales and all-in sustaining costs per ounce and projected capital, operating and exploration expenditures; mine life and production rates; potential mineralization and metal or mineral recoveries; expectations regarding future price and cost assumptions, financial performance and other outlook or guidance; and the estimated timing and conclusions of technical reports and other studies. Forward-looking statements are necessarily based upon a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by the Company as at the date of this press release in light of management's experience and perception of current conditions and expected developments, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies. Known and unknown factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements and undue reliance should not be placed on such statements and information. Such factors include, but are not limited to: fluctuations in the spot and forward price of gold, copper or certain other commodities (such as silver, diesel fuel, natural gas and electricity); the speculative nature of mineral exploration and development; changes in mineral production performance, exploitation and exploration successes; risks associated with the fact that initiatives described in this release are still in the early stages of evaluation and additional engineering and other analysis is required to fully assess their impact; diminishing quantities or grades of reserves; increased costs, delays, suspensions and technical challenges associated with the construction of capital projects; operating or technical difficulties in connection with mining or development activities, including disruptions in the maintenance or provision of required infrastructure and information technology systems; failure to comply with environmental and health and safety laws and regulations; timing of receipt of, or failure to comply with, necessary permits and approvals; uncertainty whether some or all of the initiatives will meet the Company's capital allocation objectives and internal hurdle rate; the impact of global liquidity and credit availability on the timing of cash flows and the values of assets and liabilities based on projected future cash flows; adverse changes in our credit ratings; the impact of inflation; fluctuations in the currency markets; changes in U.S. dollar interest rates; risks arising from holding derivative instruments; changes in national and local government legislation, taxation, controls or regulations and/or changes in the administration of laws, policies and practices, expropriation or nationalization of property and political or economic developments in Canada, United States, Peru, Argentina and other jurisdictions in which the Company does or may carry on business in the future; damage to the Company's reputation due to the actual or perceived occurrence of any number of events, including negative publicity with respect to the Company's handling of environmental matters or dealings with community groups, whether true or not; the possibility that future exploration results will not be consistent with the Company's expectations; risks that exploration data may be incomplete and considerable additional work may be required to complete further evaluation, including but not limited to drilling, engineering and socio-economic studies and investment; risk of loss due to acts of war, terrorism, sabotage and civil disturbances; litigation; contests over title to properties, particularly title to undeveloped properties, or over access to water, power and other required infrastructure; business opportunities that may be presented to, or pursued by, the Company; risks associated with working with partners in jointly controlled assets; employee relations; increased costs and risks related to the potential impact of climate change; and availability and increased costs associated with mining inputs and labor. In addition, there are risks and hazards associated with the business of mineral exploration, development and mining, including environmental hazards, industrial accidents, unusual or unexpected formations, pressures, cave-ins, flooding and gold bullion, copper cathode or gold or copper concentrate losses (and the risk of inadequate insurance, or inability to obtain insurance, to cover these risks). Many of these uncertainties and contingencies can affect our actual results and could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements made by, or on behalf of, us. Readers are cautioned that forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. All of the forward-looking statements made in this press release are qualified by these cautionary statements. Specific reference is made to the most recent Form 40-F/Annual Information Form on file with the SEC and Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities for a more detailed discussion of some of the factors underlying forward-looking statements and the risks that may affect Barrick's ability to achieve the expectations set forth in the forward-looking statements contained in this press release. The Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
News Article | January 31, 2017
Now that Republicans have quietly drawn a path to give away much of Americans’ public land, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced what the Wilderness Society is calling “step two” in the GOP’s plan to offload federal property. The new piece of legislation would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”. But many in the 10 states that would lose federal land in the bill disagree, and public land rallies in opposition are bringing together environmentalists and sportsmen across the west. Set aside for mixed use, BLM land is leased for oil, gas and timber, but is also open to campers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts. As well as providing corridors for gray wolves and grizzly bears, low-lying BLM land often makes up the winter pasture for big game species, such as elk, pronghorn and big-horned sheep. Jason Amaro, who represents the south-west chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, describes the move as a land grab. “Last I checked, hunters and fishermen were taxpayers,” said Amaro, who lives in a New Mexico county where 70,000 acres of federal lands are singled out. In total, his state, which sees $650m in economic activity from hunting and fishing, stands to lose 800,000 acres of BLM land, or more than the state of Rhode Island. “That word ‘disposal’ is scary. It’s not ‘disposable’ for an outdoorsman,” he said. Scott Groene, a Utah conservationist, said the state’s elected officials were trying to “seize public lands any way they can”, without providing Americans a chance to weigh in. If residents knew their local BLM land was being threatened, said Groene, “I’m sure the communities would be shocked”. Chaffetz introduced the bill alongside a second piece of legislation that would strip the BLM and the US Forest Service of law enforcement capabilities, a move in line with the Utah delegation’s opposition to all federal land management. “The other bill hamstrings our ability to manage and ensure that our public lands are being kept safe,” said Bobby McEnaney of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “When you have those two combined, it’s a fairly cynical approach to how public lands can be managed.” The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website. Due to a controversial change this month to the House of Representatives’ rules, the sale does not have to make money for the federal government. A representative for the interior department, Mike Pool, who weighed in on a version of the bill in 2011, said selling those 3.3m acres “would be unlikely to generate revenue”. A Republican conservation group in Utah likened it at the time to “selling the house to pay the light bill”. The acreage identified is drawn from a 1997 survey conducted by the Clinton administration, which sought to identify potential offsets to revive the Florida Everglades after decades of pollution from the sugar cane industry. The actual language of the 1997 survey, which did not result in land being sold, prefaced its findings with a caution: “Please note many lands identified appear to have conflicts which may preclude them from being considered for disposal or exchange.” The vast majority of the thousands of parcels have “impediments to disposal”, according to the survey, including hosting endangered species and wetlands or having “cultural significance”. Barack Obama created at least two federal protections in counties with large swathes of BLM land now designated for disposal: New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument, in 2014, and Utah’s Bears Ears national monument, in 2016. Arizona’s Parashant national monument, near the Grand Canyon, was designated by Bill Clinton in 2000 and also sits in a marked county. A spokesperson for Chaffetz said he was not available for comment. To outdoorsmen like Amaro, selling off individual parcels of national land creates a “multiplier problem”, where a small parcel of land turned private can cut off access for many. That’s what happened in Coronado national forest, he said. Ten acres that led on to hundreds of thousands of acres of public property were turned into state trust land. “Access has been eliminated for much of the forest. The private landowners now effectively have their own private hunting preserves by not allowing public hunters a way into the national forest,” Amaro said. Chaffetz’s proposal might in fact be in violation of the common-law Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that the federal government keep and manage national resources for all Americans. Courts have upheld the policy that sale or use must be in Americans’ interest. John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in Missoula, Montana, said the Utah representatives were pushing the bills despite their proven unpopularity. “It’s not only an assault on our traditions,” Gale said. “It’s the idea that they’re stealing that from our children.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
As Republican members of Congress continue their efforts to overturn federal regulations passed under the Obama administration, they are now taking aim at the process for managing public lands. In the past few weeks, Congress has introduced a number of resolutions under an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, which could undo multiple environmental rules finalized last year. And one of the latest to come up for the chopping block is a regulation passed late last year by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), intended to make federal land use planning more efficient and accessible to the public. A resolution to nullify the rule has already passed in the House and may soon come to a vote in the Senate. The regulation — commonly known as the BLM Planning 2.0 rule — was meant to address concerns about the time and transparency associated with land planning processes, which can include everything from decisions about energy development on public lands to the protection of endangered wildlife. The final rule expands the process of gathering data and information for decision-making processes, allowing for greater and earlier public input on land planning decisions and calling for decisions to be based on the best available science. Upon its finalization, BLM officials claimed that the rule would help decisions to be made more quickly, in a way that better reflects the condition of the land and the concerns of affected communities at the time the plans are carried out. “Under the current system, it takes an average of eight years for the BLM to finish a land use plan,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze in a statement at the time. “Too often, by the time we’ve completed a plan, community priorities have evolved and conditions on the ground have changed as well. This update to our planning rule allows for a more streamlined process that also increases collaboration and transparency.” But critics have claimed that the rule reduces the authority of county commissioners and other local land managers and undermines local interests. Last week, a letter from the Western Governors’ Association to members of Congress expressed concern about the involvement of state governors in resource management plans moving forward, as well as the rule’s potential to favor national objectives over state interests. The letter urged Congress to direct the BLM to reexamine the regulation. Under the new resolution, however, the rule would not just be revisited — it would be done away with entirely, with a provision prohibiting any substantially similar rule from ever being enacted again without congressional approval. President Trump has already indicated his intention to sign the resolution should it pass through Congress. It’s the second major BLM rule to be targeted for repeal under the Congressional Review Act. The first was a highly controversial regulation aimed at curbing excess methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands — it was pinned as a likely target for action under the Trump administration nearly as soon as it was passed in November. This resolution is also awaiting a vote in the Senate. The Planning 2.0 rule has received somewhat quieter pushback since it was finalized in December, making it a slightly more surprising target for congressional action. It was not pegged by experts as an early priority for repeal, nor was it included in an initial report from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), head of the House Freedom Caucus, containing a comprehensive list of rules and regulations Congress should focus on overturning in the new administration’s first 100 days. However, the rule was included on a list of targets for action under the Congressional Review Act compiled by the Congressional Western Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers representing the Western states. “We already think that Congress has spent way too much time on this planning rule, which should be a nonissue and noncontroversial,” said Phil Hanceford, assistant director of the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “I’m not saying that people’s complaints or problems with the rule aren’t valid, but they can be fixed through very surgical means.” He added that the previous Congress held three hearings on the rule before it was finalized, two in the House and one in the Senate, and that “we were surprised that they spent that much time on the rule in the first place.” However, some groups have hailed the congressional action. Ethan Lane, executive director of federal lands with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement last week that the rule was a “massive regulatory overreach” and that the new congressional resolution represented a “huge victory for America’s cattle producers and a sign that some common sense is finally being restored in Washington.” But environmentalists have maintained that concerns about specific provisions of the rule could still be addressed administratively by the BLM, instead of subjecting the entire regulation to the chopping block. “If the planning rule is overturned by the CRA, then we go back to the out-of-date, inefficient way of planning for public lands that everybody has complained about for decades,” Hanceford said.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Declaring “perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the US House will begin work to repeal, under the Congressional Review Act, the US Bureau of Land Management’s methane venting and flaring rule and the Security and Exchange Commission’s requirement that US oil and gas and other resource extraction companies disclose payments to foreign governments.
News Article | February 15, 2017
UPDATE: Yesterday this post was titled Congress moves to sell off public land the size of Connecticut but it turns out that the voices of the people who actually use public land are loud and powerful. According to Reuters, Republican U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz said on Thursday he plans to withdraw a bill that would have sold off more than 3 million acres of federal land to private interests after it drew a barrage of negative comments from hunters and outdoor enthusiasts...."I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands,” the Utah representative said in a comment, beneath a photo he posted of himself outdoors wearing hunting gear and holding a dog. “I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.” Apparently "Sportsmen and women, hunting groups, and outdoor gear retailers had flooded Chaffetz's Instagram account with thousands of posts, urging him to "say no to HR 621" and to "#keepitpublic." The resistance across the board was very loud: There are many who believe that public land is there to serve the public good, whether it be forestry and mining that create jobs, pasturing of animals, or for recreation. But there are apparently many others who think that the government has no business being in the land ownership business, and are trying to get the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell it off. According to Caty Enders in Guardian, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced a bill…. © Pat Bagley (This writer must admit that almost everything I know about Utah I learned from following the editorial cartoons of Pat Bagley at the Salt Lake Tribune, who has been absolutely devastating in his coverage of the attacks on the environment in Utah by Chaffetz and others, and whose cartoons are used here with permission.) Even Republicans in Chaffetz’s own state are objecting to this, as one noted earlier in the Salt Lake Tribune: An earlier article in the Guardian notes that this has long been Republican policy. The attitude apparently is that “Washington bureaucrats don’t listen to people.Local governments do.” Fortunately there is still a lot of opposition from both parties and might not even be legal. Of course these days, anything can happen. More in the Guardian
News Article | February 15, 2017
US Sen. John A. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced disapproval resolutions in their respective chambers on Jan. 30 to overturn the US Bureau of Land Management’s rule aimed at limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public and Indian tribal land under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
News Article | February 15, 2017
US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) introduced disapproval resolutions in their respective chambers on Jan. 30 to overturn the US Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new Resource Management Planning rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
News Article | February 25, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding a major Obama administration water regulation and direct an end to the government's defense of the rule, a Trump official briefed on the plan said late Friday. Trump is expected to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2015, and was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges. The rule has faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, farmers and energy companies. Critics contend the rule vastly expands the federal government's authority and could apply to ditches and small isolated bodies of water. The EPA under President Barack Obama said the rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries "because science shows that they impact downstream waters." A White House spokeswoman did not comment on Friday. Trump is also expected to issue other environmental executive orders as early as next week, including a reversal of the Obama administration's clean power plant rule and instructing the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to lift a ban on new coal mining leases on federal lands. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal last week that he planned to quickly withdraw the clean power plant and WOTUS rules. "There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules," Pruitt told the newspaper. Withdrawing the water and power plant rules will take time to meet regulatory requirements and will likely face court challenges from some Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to resolve a dispute over what court should handle challenges of the water regulation. The justices said they would hear an appeal by the National Association of Manufacturers of a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court's ruling that gave itself jurisdiction to review challenges to the Clean Water Act regulation. The industry group wants challenges to the rule to be heard in district courts. Dozens of agricultural groups, states and municipalities had sued to block the rule. The challengers contend the agencies' change improperly expanded federal regulatory power.
News Article | February 25, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure on Wednesday aimed at rescinding a major Obama administration water regulation and direct an end to the government's defense of the rule, a Trump official briefed on the plan said on Friday. Trump is expected to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2015, and was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges. The rule has faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, farmers and energy companies. Critics contend the rule vastly expands the federal government's authority and could apply to ditches and small isolated bodies of water. The EPA under President Barack Obama said the rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries "because science shows that they impact downstream waters." Trump is also expected to issue other environmental executive orders as early as next week, including ordering a reversal of the Obama administration's clean power plant rule and instructing the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to lift a ban on new coal mining leases on federal lands. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal last week that he planned to quickly withdraw the clean power plant and WOTUS rules. "There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules," Pruitt told the newspaper. Withdrawing the water and power plant rules will take time to meet regulatory requirements and will likely face court challenges from some Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups.
News Article | February 7, 2017
This week, California’s Air Resource Board (ARB) released a strong and likely final draft of new regulations that will reduce methane pollution from new and existing oil and gas facilities across California. Methane essentially is natural gas — wasting it is tantamount to wasting an energy resource. California producers report losing about 75,000 metric tons of methane every year, while nationally companies on publicly owned lands reportedly waste more than $1 million worth of natural gas every day. Alongside methane, oil and gas facilities also emit a list of toxic pollution like hydrogen sulfide, toluene, xylene, and benzene, all of which can be harmful to public health. The new California rules mirror successful efforts in Colorado and Wyoming, where regulators understand that reducing methane emissions prevents resource waste, improves economic outcomes and reduces air pollution. Similarly, last year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued federal standards for new oil and gas facilities based on those state policies, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrote a similar policy for oil and gas companies operating on federal or tribal lands. But now those federal rules are in the crosshairs. The House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill to roll back the BLM standards, which are designed to reduce an estimated $330 million worth of natural gas that is wasted on public lands each year through leaks, intentional venting, and flaring. A similar attempt on the EPA rules is expected. The attack on federal standards makes state rules all the more critical to the safe oversight of oil and gas activity around the nation. While California is the nation’s third largest oil producer, it’s also a major energy consumer, importing more than half of the oil and 90% of the gas required to meet the state’s energy needs. Even though passing California’s rules will reduce regional pollution and prevent our resources from being wasted, federal back-peddling will mean the large volumes of oil and gas California imports will have a bigger environmental footprint, and this can have an adverse impact on some of our most vulnerable communities. For example, recent reports find that the Latino communities that make up approximately 40% of California’s population are often more adversely impacted by the industry’s emissions, which can increase smog levels and thus increase the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases and asthma attacks. Across the country nearly 1.8 million Latinos live within half a mile of an oil or gas facility, and higher poverty levels and relatively lower rates of health insurance mean the health threats from air pollution, translate into a bigger health burden on Latino communities. National Standards Can Create a Safety Net for All Communities California rules should provide a moment of relief and celebration for those concerned with improving air quality, and stopping the unnecessary waste of our energy. But the stakes could not be higher for the rest of our nation. Across the U.S, the oil and gas industry emits more methane pollution than any other sector. If Congress succeeds with its rollback plans, states may be left with little option other than to regulate at their own behest, which could lead to disparities that don’t protect all Americans equally. This is why institutions are mobilizing to educate Congressional leaders of the danger and shortsightedness of federal oil and gas rollbacks. All communities deserve to be protected. By supporting CARB’s efforts, we can send a message to national leaders that communities here and across the country demand equal protections from this pollution. Smart policies that reduce methane and other harmful oil and gas pollutants are exactly what California and the nation needs. Join EDF and thousands of others who are urging California and Congress to stand up for standards that ensure all American have access to a healthy economy and a healthy environment.