Articles Posted in Mining

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PREVAILING WAGE LAW is California’s “other” minimum wage. It requires workers to be paid union wages on publicly funded construction projects. But in recent years, the law in California has EXPANDED well beyond its initial purpose.  It has become a tool for workers to demand union wages on virtually any construction project in California. These claims can increase the cost of a major construction project by millions of dollars—and can be brought years after construction is complete.

The U.S. Court of Appeals Has Revived AB 219 Once Again!

In a dizzying turn of events, the U.S. Court of Appeals has revived AB 219 for a second time. Less than three weeks ago, I posted an article describing how the U.S. District Court issued a permanent injunction overturning AB 219, effectively striking it down for the second time. Now it’s back!

A Quick Recap

AB 219 took effect on July 1, 2016. It applied California prevailing wage requirements to the delivery of ready-mix concrete to public works. This was big news for two reasons: (1) it hit the ready-mix concrete industry—and all of the businesses that depend on it—very hard; and (2) it represents the first time that prevailing wage requirements have been imposed on material suppliers (as opposed to on-site contractors).

On June 30, 2016—the day before AB 219 took effect—eight ready-mix companies filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the new statute on Equal Protection grounds. In essence, they argued it was unfair to single out ready-mix concrete companies for special treatment, leaving all other material suppliers unaffected. Continue reading

Published on:

PREVAILING WAGE LAW is California’s “other” minimum wage. It requires workers to be paid union wages on publicly funded construction projects. But in recent years, the law in California has EXPANDED well beyond its initial purpose.  It has become a tool for workers to demand union wages on virtually any construction project in California. These claims can increase the cost of a major construction project by millions of dollars—and can be brought years after construction is complete.

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has struck down AB 219 as unconstitutional once again.

AB 219 took effect on July 1, 2016. It applied California prevailing wage requirements to the delivery of ready-mix concrete to public works. This was big news for two reasons: (1) it hit the ready-mix concrete industry—and all of the businesses that depend on it—very hard; and (2) it represents the first time that prevailing wage requirements have been imposed on material suppliers (as opposed to on-site contractors).

On June 30, 2016—the day before AB 219 took effect—eight ready-mix companies filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the new statute on Equal Protection grounds. In essence, they argued it was unfair to single out ready-mix concrete companies for special treatment, leaving all other material suppliers unaffected.

Since then, the Court battle has taken a number of dramatic twists and turns. AB 219 has been suspended, reinstated, overturned, and appealed, as follows:

  • Oct. 21, 2016—District Court issues preliminary injunction suspending enforcement of AB 219. [AB 219 not in effect.]
  • Oct. 24, 2016—State appeals the preliminary injunction.
  • Dec. 16, 2016—Court of Appeals stays the preliminary injunction pending appeal. [AB 219 back in effect.]
  • Mar. 14, 2017—District Court issues permanent injunction overturning AB 219. [AB 219 not in effect.]
  • Mar. 14, 2017—State appeals the permanent injunction.
  • Mar. 29, 2017—State files motion to stay the permanent injunction pending appeal.

If the Court of Appeals grants the stay, AB 219 will be back in effect once again!

What should ready-mix companies do now?

With all of this back and forth, what should ready-mix companies do? Should they stop complying with AB 219, since it has been declared unconstitutional by the District Court? Or should they continue complying until there is a final decision on appeal?

Companies should consult with their own legal counsel to decide on a course of action. Here are some important considerations:

  • Contracts. Even though AB 219 has been ruled unconstitutional, ready-mix companies must still comply with their contractual obligations. If they have contracts requiring them to pay prevailing wage or take other steps consistent with AB 219, they must continue to do so (or modify the contract).
  • Non-DIR Enforcement. The lawsuit challenging AB 219 was brought against the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Labor Commissioner, the chief enforcement official at DIR. DIR has therefore taken the position that the permanent injunction only prohibits the enforcement of AB 219 by DIR—not enforcement by other agencies such as Caltrans or by workers or unions in private lawsuits. So despite the District Court’s ruling, we can expect Caltrans to continue requiring and enforcing AB 219 on its projects; and some drivers might work with unions to file lawsuits against their employers. (Of course, ready-mix companies will argue that no agency or person should be allowed to enforce AB 219, since the District Court ruled it to be unconstitutional!)
  • Retroactive Enforcement. DIR has also taken the aggressive position that if AB 219 is upheld on appeal, DIR intends to retroactively enforce it going back to the date it first took effect, i.e., July 1, 2016. This policy seems patently unfair: it requires companies to comply with AB 219 even though the District Court has declared the law to be unconstitutional. It is not clear whether courts in the future will allow DIR to do this. Nonetheless, DIR’s position creates uncertainty and risk for ready-mix companies who choose not to comply with AB 219.

What’s Next?

DIR has moved for a stay of the permanent injunction, pending a final decision on appeal. The Court will decide on the stay in the next few weeks.

The parties are scheduled to file their appeal briefs in August and September 2017. Oral argument will likely be scheduled for early 2018, with a decision sometime later in the year.
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Jon Welner is a leading practitioner of prevailing wage law in California. He is a Partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) and Chair of JMBM’s Prevailing Wage Group. Contact him at JWelner@jmbm.com.

JMBM’s Prevailing Wage Group advises and defends developers, contractors, and manufacturers on the most challenging and complex prevailing wage matters in California.

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by Kerry Shapiro
This article was first published in The Conveyor, a publication of the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association.

Mining companies are subject to myriad requirements under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) and implementing regulations that can trip up even the most diligent of operators from time to time. When a potential violation occurs, SMARA holds that either the lead agency or the Department of Conservation (read OMR) may initiate enforcement proceedings by issuing a notice of violation (NOV). All too often, the process results in an order to comply issued against the operator, which in turn can jeopardize the operator’s AB 3098 List eligibility. Removal from the AB 3098 List forecloses an operator’s ability to sell materials to State and/or local agencies, often a major component of many operators’ customer bases.

Enter SB 447. Under this new CalCIMA-driven legislation operators can maintain AB 3098 List eligibility while working to resolve enforcement issues required by an order to comply, and may now also negotiate the terms of, and stipulate to, such an order. These are called stipulated orders to comply.
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by Kerry Shapiro, Esq.

The recent submittal of significant proposed revisions to California’s mining law, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (“SMARA”), signals potentially broad-reaching changes to the statute. On February 21, 2014, Senator Fran Pavely (D) introduced SB 1270, a bill proposing to overhaul various sections of SMARA. SB 1270 proposes fundamental changes to SMARA. Click here for a copy of SB 1270.

If these changes go through, mine owners and operators will be subject to a new regulatory system under which the State will assume a far greater and centralized role in various aspects of SMARA, including mine inspections, enforcement, and establishment of financial assurance mechanisms. The mining industry also faces the likely prospect of increased carrying costs, arising from such proposals as changes to the annual reporting fee structure (proposed at a minimum of $1,000/year on a per-acre basis, and with no maximum cap), to increased ability to appeal decisions relating to the State’s “3098” list.
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by Kerry Shapiro
As reported earlier this week in this blog, the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar allowed a uranium mine on federal lands in Arizona to re-open after being idled for seventeen years absent any new federal approval or supplemental environmental review. This decision is notable on its own, but carries added significance in California, where it now highlights a potential conflict between federal and state law regarding idle mines and the resumption of mining operations at such mines.
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Kerry Shapiro
This three-part blog series on California SB 108, a bill which changes provisions in the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) pertaining to “idle” mines, is based on a paper I first presented at the CalCIMA Conference in October 2011. If you have not yet read part one which gives background on the Interim Management Plan problem, or part two which discusses what SB 108 does and who it affects, you will want read those first.

SB 108: Unresolved Problems and Ideas to Address Them

  1. Application to Active Mines. It is arguably inappropriate to designate as “idle” an operation that is generating returns that seem adequate to support continuing operation and defray ultimate reclamation costs. One solution might be to establish a minimum annual quantity of production as a so-called “safe harbor” to qualify a mine as “active” without regard to changes in historical production level. After all, why should a mine be classified as “idle” simply because it now produces less than it used to? Future legislation could establish a minimum quantity of annual production as a “safe harbor” from classifications of “idle” or “abandoned.”

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Published on:

Kerry Shapiro
This three-part blog series on California SB 108, a bill which changes provisions in the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) pertaining to “idle” mines, is based on a paper I first presented at the CalCIMA Conference in October 2011. If you have not yet read part one of this three-part series, which gives background on the Interim Management Plan problem, you will want read that first.

SB 108: What it Does

Revised Definition of “Idle”: SB 108 addresses only one of the substantive issues discussed above, by changing the current definition of “Idle” in SMARA Section 2727.1 to look at the curtailment of production by more than 90 percent of the maximum annual production within any of the last five years, rather than by more than 90 percent of the previous historical maximum annual production. See SB 108 (a copy is attached to this paper). This avoids some of the record problems discussed above and likely limits the number of operations falling within the definition of idle.

Additional Renewals of IMPs: Currently SMARA allows for renewal of an IMP for an additional 5-year period. SB 108 clarifies that an IMP may be renewed for additional 5-year periods at the expiration of each 5-year period. SMARA Section 2770(h)(2)(A)

Limited Window to Change Mine Status: Although not a substantive change to address the overall IMP problem, perhaps the most significant and practical benefit of SB 108 is the change of status provision. SB 108 adds new SMARA Section 2777.5, to authorize operators to file amended annual reports for prior years in order to revise mineral production or to change mine status from active to idle. One impact of this is to allow mine operators that may have failed to timely file an IMP in prior years (and thus could be subject to claims by OMR of abandonment notwithstanding resumption of production in subsequent years) to either correct production numbers for prior years (thereby avoiding claims of past idleness and failure to prepare a timely IMP) or to properly identify, i.e., change the status of the mine as having been idle in prior years and allow for the filing of a “retrospective” or “late” IMP (thereby avoiding potential claims of abandonment).
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Published on:

Kerry Shapiro
This three-part blog series on California SB 108, a bill which changes provisions in the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) pertaining to “idle” mines, is based on a paper I first presented at the CalCIMA Conference in October 2011.

Background: What is the Interim Management Plan Problem?

SB 108 is designed to address some (but not all) of the problems existing in the current SMARA statutory scheme regulating so-called “idle” mines through the requirement of submitting an interim management plan (“IMP”). Having passed though the legislature without a single no vote, the bill was signed by Governor’ Jerry Brown on October 5, 2011 will be effective on January 1, 2012. This presentation identifies the problems with the current regulation of idle mines though IMP requirements, explains SB 108, including its key terms and the limited window for mine operators to take advantages of SB 108’s “change of status” provisions, and finally identifies IMP problems not addressed by SB 108 and proposes ideas for addressing such problems.
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