A Native American tribe in Oklahoma is poised to become the first tribe in the country to lead and manage the cleanup of a federal hazardous waste site.
The Quapaw Tribe is cleaning up a site where a Catholic church and boarding school that tribal members attended once stood. The land was later leased to various companies and mined for lead and zinc. When mining stopped, large piles of leftover mining waste were left behind. This caused health problems for residents.
This isn’t the first legislative session some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for a severance tax for mining limestone and sand, but it’s the first time the idea has gotten this far.
On Monday, the House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed HB1876, which would allow up to a five percent tax on the production of limestone, sand, and other aggregates. It now moves to the full House for consideration.
Last week, StateImpact reported on what the passage of State Question 640 in 1992 did to tax policy in Oklahoma.
“You need to have a supermajority in the House and the Senate and the governor has to sign it,” Alexander Holmes, a Regent’s Professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma, said. “I’m still betting that if you reduce the taxes, you can never make them go up again.”
Coal mining can cause a lot of damage to the landscape, and the federal government has rules about how mining companies are supposed to treat the land after they’re done with it.
Basically, they’re supposed to return it to approximately what it was like before.
The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is charged with making sure the Oklahoma Department of Mines is enforcing that rule. If the Oklahoma mining regulator doesn’t, the feds can step in and take over that role.