DRA Lobby Days Report

This past week was by far my favorite here in Pierre. It was our Lobby Days, which really turned into a Lobby Week, and the board met Tuesday as well, so there were a lot of people out here with me to advocate for our issues. Thanks to these members, staff, and community who came out and spoke with legislators: Don and Kim Kelley, Bret Clanton, Gloria Abdala-Peterson, Becky Leas, Dahl McLean, Jillian Anawaty, Frank James, Paul Seamans, Mary Goulet, Cheryl Fair, Robert Lee, and Susan Henderson.

The week started out with a bit more of a bang than we expected – SB 141, to increase bonding on mining operations, was scheduled for Tuesday morning at 10:00. With all the gold and uranium exploration happening in the Black Hills, there are some significant concerns about how mining will affect our land, water, economy, and way of life in West River. This bill would have provided a little more assurance that future generations would not have to clean up after our generation’s mining mess.

I and several members (along with other supporters of the bill) spoke adamantly in favor of the bill. However, both the Wharf Enterprises and Powertech spoke against the bill, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while not speaking against the bill, said it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, the committee did not pass SB 141, but it did open up a conversation we are hopeful will continue in the near future.

Members also spoke to the legislators about our net metering bill, which will be up in the House Commerce and Energy Committee next week Monday, Feb. 4, at 10:00am CT. Don, Kim, and Bret worked the House floor, talking to nearly all the members of the committee, in addition to several other legislators interested in the bill. The report back from our members is that there is both good and bad news: legislators are interested and when they find out net metering would not increase rates for utility customers, they want to know more. But they are not supportive of our current bill. Legislators need to be reassured that our proposal is the right way to go about net metering. We believe it is a strong proposal. And we’re open to making it better. Whether or not our bill comes out alive Monday, we have made great strides in opening up the discussion around small renewable energy production. I’d call that progress.

Several DRA and community members spoke with legislators about the uranium bills coming up next Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 10:00am CT. SB 148, SB 149, and SB 150 would go a long way in reassuring our members that if uranium mining is allowed in South Dakota it will be done under strict rules to protect people, land, water, and future generations from harm. These bills are essential to pass – but we know we have an uphill battle. If you feel strongly about uranium mining, please contact me, sabrina@dakotarural.org, and I can get you more information about Thursday.

Finally, we spoke with legislators about SB 164 and SB 59. 164 would provide annual compensation to landowners for losses from oil/gas development, and 59 would prevent North Dakota from dumping its oil waste in South Dakota. We support both these bills, very strongly. Over the past week we have been able to talk to almost all members of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to urge their support for SB 164. It is up today – I’ll let you know how it goes. SB 59 will come up in the House in the next couple weeks. We expect it will pass, but we’ll be working on it to make sure it does.

Long report – thanks for sticking with me. And thanks again to all our members who have called, written, testified, and lobbied this past month. You really have made a difference in the discussions happening up here. It takes time to get things through. Not everything will pass this year – and not everything will fail. Either way, we will keep working – and we will get it done!

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