Final push to stop SB637 in California

The final push is next Tuesday to stop this ridiculous Senate Bill, SB637 which will create yet another layer of regulation and permitting schemes for suction dredging in California.

As most of you know by now, this is about mercury and there have been lies upon lies about mercury and suction dredging coming from Sierra Fund, a far left radical environmental group which received millions of your tax payer dollars to dredge on Lake Combie. They are currently the only entity in California which can legally dredge, while all the small miners are being threatened with jail, equipment confiscation and fines.

We need a strong presence once again at this hearing on Tuesday, July 14th. The location is included below.

We are including quite a bit of information off of the “Stop SB637” website created by Dale Meyer, thank you Dale and all those involved.

The website is located here:

The bill will be heard before the Water, Parks and Wildlife Assembly subcommittee on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 0930. Arrive early for best seating. This meeting will take place across the street from the Capital on the South side, in the Legislative Office Building, 1020 N Street, Room 160, Sacramento, CA 95814 and the phone number is (916) 319-2096. Please take just a few minutes to contact the Chair of the W, P and W Subcommittee and individual members if you live in their district. (Again the electronic electronic messaging only works if you enter an address within the district). You can call, fax or send a letter to all of them stating your opposition to this permit scheme for any of the reasons below that show this bill is clearly flawed and simply another attack on the small scale miner and mining communities in California’s gold country. We have already suffered a six-year shut down and can’t take much more. If you can attend the hearing on July 14th as well, that will greatly help drive home the problems with this bill.

Fact: Small scale mining equipment does not “discharge” per several US Supreme Court cases including the well known soup pot analogy case by Justice Ruth Bader Gingsberg. Nothing is added from outside the stream or river thus no discharge is possible. Passing river gravels through small scale mining equipment produces only “incidental fallback” (see also the Tulloch Ruling) which requires no such discharge permit or any other discharge permit.

When nothing is added you have only incidental fallback which is NOT regulatable under the CWA(Clean Water Act) per case law Froebel v Meyer.

Unknown costs to the state: Since miner’s don’t discharge, they will not need discharge permits. Saying that this SB637 permit process is self-funding is a MYTH! There is cost to set up a new state board to run this permit process and the UNKNOWN cost of enforcement and UNKNOWN cost of training the yet undefined enforcement branch to field test if pollution is taking place. This unnecessary permit scheme to keep miners off the water WILL be challenged in court wasting more tax payer dollars. Meanwhile, the communities in gold country continue to suffer the loss of business from the fewer miners headed for the hills that buy local gas, food, ice, lodging and supplies. Many small businesses in these rural communities have gone out of business due to the 6-year dredging moratorium.

History: Shortly after a San Bernadino Judge ruled the state’s 6-year suction dredging moratorium was an “unenforceable scheme” and overturned it, California State Senator Ben Allen introduced a “water quality” bill, SB 637. Sen Allen has District 26 in Southern California which to the best of our knowledge has ZERO federal mining claims within its boundaries making one wonder why a freshman Senator goes after small scale suction dredge miners on one of his first attempts at passing legislation. The title has been amended from water quality (dropped in two places) to “dredging” and “suction dredging permits”. The concern is that small scale miners are stirring up sediments in the rivers, streams and creeks that might contain mercury. The bill is now clearly yet another attack on small scale miners heavily supported by anti-mining environmentalists, The Sierra Fund, who happen to be the only entity allowed to dredge today under a special permit at Lake Combie. Political hypocrisy at its finest! Keep your competition sidelined while getting millions of tax dollars from the state for what the miner’s pay permit fees to do and do it better.

This bill will create a costly and unnecessary “waste discharge” permit process for small miners by the State Water Control Board, in addition to the small miners dredging permit process managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife which is still in limbo after the Judge’s ruling that would lift the illegal moratorium. It’s true that there is a Mercury contamination problem in various regions caused primarily by the 49’ers mining practices of the 1850’s. But, if this bill is truly about water quality, why prevent the best and most economic clean-up crew from being on the water? Modern day small scale miner’s equipment is 98% efficient at catching heavy metals. While gold is the target, lead fishing weights, bullets and Mercury commonly get captured and removed from the waterway at the same time. If miner’s are removing mercury, that’s a good thing for water quality! Let miners remove the mercury before Mother Nature blows it downstream during storm events (see bridge pictures below)!
Here is the Sierra Fund”s Science Director testifying at the Senate EQ subcommittee hearing 4/29/2015 stating that the miners cleaning up Mercury project was shut down because it was too successful. What?? But the Sierra Fund gets millions to do what miners do for free?? Lord help us all. Here is Senator Allen surprised response to the news that the miner’s clean up of Mercury was too successful. Yes, Senator, we’re dissatisfied as well.

No cost to the state: Small scale suction dredge miners in recent years were asked to help clean up Mercury. The links show a Washington State Ecology Award and a webpage from the EPA website, Region 9, both showing the miner’s clean-up results were measured in pounds recovered. The EPA webpage mysteriously disappeared from the EPA the weekend before SB 637 was heard by the Senate Environmental Quality Subcommittee. But worry not, we saved copies of the page knowing it wouldn’t last long. Sadly, the main supporter of this bill, The Sierra Fund, receives millions of taxpayer dollars to “cutter” dredge Lake Combie for a Mercury clean up pilot project and wishes to expand. The Lake Combie clean-up samples have been measured in grams of Mercury recovered. Plus, a cutter head dredge stirs up sediments more than a simple suction (vacuum) dredge. So, here’s the math question: Why does the Sierra Fund wish to shut down the miner’s? Answer: Small scale gold miners clean up more mercury than the Sierra Fund does and we pay for dredge permits to do so. There’s no cost to the taxpayer and the state gains revenues via the dredging fee process. The only logical conclusion is: Small scale miners threaten the Sierra Fund’s cushy income of millions of California tax dollars when the job could be done at no cost to the taxpayer. All the miners have been asking for is a more wide spread network of hazardous waste collection facilities to turn in the captured Mercury. If this was truly about clean water and saving taxpayer money, Senator Allen could have pulled this bill after hearing small scale mining equipment does not discharge, verbally and with documents submitted to him from the opposition. We can only conclude the bill is another agenda driven attack on small scale dredgers.

Please make arrangements to attend this crucial meeting.

2 thoughts on “Final push to stop SB637 in California

  1. We could really use some people in Mariposa, unless this woman recuses herself by Monday night.

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