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STATE SELECTION OF MINERAL-RICH LANDS
H.R. 16, A BILL "TO AMEND SECTIONS 2275 AND 2276
STATEMENT OF THE CHAIRMAN
JANUARY 15, 1965.
To Members of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs: On February 7, 1963, the Attorney General of the United States, in a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Interior, interpreted certain provisions of section 2276 of the Revised Statutes (43 U.S.C. 852), as amended by the act of August 27, 1958 (72 Stat. 928), relating to indemnity selections of public lands by States.
The 1958 act provides, among other things, that land subject to a mineral lease or permit may be selected only if none of such land is in a “producing or producible status." The Attorney General pointed out that, in its comments when the legislation was being considered, the Department of the Interior referred to "producing or producible status" only in relation to an oil well and that no reference was made to solid minerals. The Attorney General concluded that the legislative history "reveals no discussion of this point and nothing to indicate that it was in anyone's mind during the period when the legislation was before Congress." The mineral involved in the particular case under review by the Attorney General was potash in the Cane Creek area of Utah.
The Attorney General, after construing the statute with regard to valuable potash deposits, stated it to be his conviction, based on his study of this matter, that "Congress did not foresee and evaluate the effect of this legislation on lands containing solid minerals."
Immediately after the Attorney General's opinion was issued, I suggested to the Secretary of the Interior that he should consider the desirability of not opening for selection similar lands until Congress had had an opportunity to consider the matter fully. I further suggested that he should, as also suggested by the Attorney General, submit departmental recommendations in the circumstances together with any legislation that he might deem necessary or desirable.
During the 2d session of the 88th Congress, the Department submitted an executive communication with proposed legislation, which I introduced in order to provide a forum for consideration of the entire subject, but time did not permit scheduling it for action. I have reintroduced this legislation as H.R. 16, 89th Congress, and have prepared this committee print with a compilation of pertinent material, including the Attorney General's opinion and the text of the Department's legislative proposal, for your information and evaluation prior to hearings being scheduled.
WAYNE N. ASPINALL, Chairman.