Congressional committees approve a pile o’ drilling and mining

Congress worked hard on Wednesday to ensure America a clean, secure energy future. Ah, we kid! Actually, the House Resources Committee approved a measure that would weaken the federal ban on new offshore gas and oil drilling. And both House and Senate resource committees approved provisions that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. And the House Resources Committee approved language proposed by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) (does this guy ever sleep?) intended to spur a sell-off of public lands to mining companies, even if those lands haven’t been shown to contain valuable mineral deposits. The provision would enact a reform to the General Mining Law of 1872, long sought by conservationists, to charge $1,000 per acre or fair market value for federal lands intended to be used for mining — instead of maintaining 19th century rates of $2.50 to $5 an acre. But that worthwhile reform is offset by an accompanying call to sell off millions of acres of Forest Service and Interior lands, according to activists. All three provisions are being packaged into a massive budget-cutting bill.