This might be enough to spell the end of the Pombo Amendment, at least as is.  (Fingers crossed.  Which makes it really difficult to type.)  And, as icing on the cake, 9 GOP House members have published a letter opposing the amendment as well.  Of course, an only slightly less noxious version could emerge from a back-room deal.  But still, the growing public of chorus of opposition can be read as a good sign.  

In different diaries on this topic, I link to different organizations which offer guidance to writing your elected officials on this issue.  Today it's Oxfam America. The topic being the stealth rework of 1872 Mining Act, featuring a massive public lands giveaway. And many other giveaways for the mining industry (and others).

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that I can't find this story from any other source than the Albuquerque Tribune online.  Though since it's cross-posted on Rep. Heather Wilson's website, that can be read as some kind of confirmation, since it's fair to assume her office has inside knowledge.  Domenici's position isn't strong enough (yet?) for him to have issued a statement on his website about it:
Albuquerque Republicans Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson are joining a chorus of Democratic opposition to a House-passed bill that conservation groups say could open up millions of acres of public lands in the West to miners and developers for as little as $1,000 per acre.
Domenici's opposition is critical because he is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the mining law in the Senate.

"Chairman Domenici will not support the provision as written," said Energy Committee spokeswoman Marnie Funk. She said Domenici is working on a response with other senators to either rewrite the provision or to drop it altogether from the budget bill.

From the same article, about GOP House members' opposition to the stealth rework of 1872 Mining Act, and likely massive public lands giveaway measure.

Wilson joined eight other House Republicans in announcing their opposition to the provision Thursday.

"If enacted, this bill could lead to a rapid sale of public lands throughout the West," they said in a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican.

On other members of the New Mexico House delegation:

Rep. Tom Udall, Santa Fe Democrat, voted against the provision in committee; Rep. Steve Pearce, Hobbs Republican, voted for it.
Pearce said it only changes the cost of buying public land that is being mined from as little as $2.50 to $5 an acre to at least $1,000 an acre or fair market value, whichever is greater.

"It opens no new lands to mining," he said.

Pearce either never bothered to read the thing (see yesterday's Pombo #9 diary on legal scholars analysis of the Pombo Amendment), or is flat-out lying.

NM Gov. Bill Richardson is definitely coming down on the right side of this issue (same article):

But Richardson and New Mexico Game and Fish Director Bruce Thompson told reporters in a conference call Thursday that the provision could open all 26 million acres of public lands in New Mexico to potential development.

Richardson said hunters and fishermen in New Mexico "are in an uproar" about a provision that would "put a for sale sign up for developers and anybody who wants to take over public land."

Critics say the language would allow natural gas and oil drilling companies to acquire public land without paying any royalties.

Wilson's press release

Text of House Members' letter:

December 7, 2005

Chairman Jim Nussle
House Committee on the Budget
303 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515  

Dear Chairman Nussle,

We are writing today to express our concerns regarding Title VI, Subtitle B, sections 6201-6207 in the Budget Reconciliation Bill, HR 4241, which would make substantial changes to current mining laws.   We are opposed to the inclusion of these provisions in the budget reconciliation bill.

This section of the budget reconciliation bill contains provisions that are expected to raise $155 million over 5 years by altering Federal mining laws to permit the sale of federal land for mining.  These provisions would lift the moratorium on the sale of mining claims, imposed by Congress in 1994, and allow claimants to purchase the underlying public lands for $1,000 per acre, or "fair market value" for the surface estate, whichever is greater.  There is also some question as to whether or not claimants would be required to prove that their claims contain mineral deposits before they can purchase the rights to the land.  Claimants would not have to pay for or share royalties with the Federal government or states for the minerals extracted from the lands.

If enacted, this bill could lead to rapid sale of public lands throughout the West.  To substantively alter the process by which mining claims are handled without full debate and hearings concerns us.  Although we believe that the General Mining Law of 1872 is antiquated and should be updated, putting these provisions in a budget reconciliation bill is not the way to go about doing this.  

We urge you to remove these mining provisions from the reconciliation package.  Such important legislation needs to be fully debated on the merits, not included in a reconciliation bill.    

Thank you in advance for considering our input on this important matter.

Signed (all Republicans):

  • Heather Wilson (NM-01)
  • Jim Ramstad (R-MN)
  • Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
  • Sue Kelly (R-NY)
  • Charlie Bass (R-NH)
  • Christopher Shays (R-CT)
  • Jim Leach (R-IA)
  • Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
  • Fred Upton (R-MI).  

The four in bold voted no on the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (aka Budget Reconciliation) which includes the Pombo Amendment, for various reasons, not necessarily related to Pombo.  The other five (Boehlert, Kelly, Bass, Gilchrest, and Upton) voted yes in that notorious late night vote before Thanksgiving.  It's not certain that this opposition translates into "no" votes, but it's still a good thing.  Nice to see the GOP's lockstep falling into some disarray on this horrible measure.

Related articles on the above letter can be found in the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican

Hallelujah!!!!  (Maybe.  Still worried about back room deals.)  

Or as Yogi Berra famously said:  It's not over `till it's over. But it looks like those cards and letters are helping.  

So, again, the link for Oxfam America who'll lead you through the process of weighing in against it.  "It" being The Mining Subtitle of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, aka HR4241, aka Budget Reconciliation.

Originally posted to Land of Enchantment on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 07:14 AM PST.

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