Legislators were doing their homework over the long weekend: lots of bills are popping into the hopper!
Among the goodies I find are a three-pack of good environmental protection bills brought by Senator Jim Bradford (D-27/Pine Ridge), Rep. Troy Heinert (D-26A/Mission), and Rep. Kevin Killer (D-27/Pine Ridge).
- Senate Bill 148 takes another stab at reinstating the state's authority to regulate in situ leach mining for uranium. SB 148 would reverse the deregulatory gift the Legislature handed in 2011 to aspiring Canadian uranium miners Powertech, which seeks to enrich itself by wrecking Black Hills water.
- Senate Bill 150 also runs right up Powertech's alley. This bill gives the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources more power to block in situ mining permits if the proposed mining threatens our groundwater. If an in situ mining applicant can pass muster with the state, SB 150 tightens the standards for restoring the groundwater that mining operation impacts.
- Senate Bill 149 sneaks in between these direct challenges to the Powertech lobby and offers some stiffer penalties for any environmental violators in the state. Right now, if the DENR discovers in an environmental audit that an individual or corporation broke some environmental rule and didn't disclose it, that violator gets a 30-day grace period to write up that violation and report it after the fact to the state and avoid any civil penalty or criminal punishment. SB 149 rewrites that clause to eliminate the grace period and say the DENR will seek punishment for such environmental offenders. SB 149 also gives the DENR the option to shut down any operation that cannot correct any violations found during an environmental audit within sixty days.
Someone in Pierre (first in line: all three of Powertech's well-heeled lobbyists) is probably already shouting, "Over-regulation!" But Senator Bradford and his associates are on the right track. Neither Powertech nor anyone else should be able to buy a free pass to pollute with the mere promise of a few temporary jobs. These three bills restore and toughen some useful state-level environmental protections.