WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not issue final regulations for financial responsibility requirements for certain hardrock mining facilities, the agency announced Dec. 1.
“After careful analysis of public comments, the statutory authority, and the record for this rulemaking, EPA is confident that modern industry practices, along with existing state and federal requirements address risks from operating hardrock mining facilities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Additional financial assurance requirements are unnecessary and would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.”
EPA published proposed regulations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund) on Jan. 11, and the public comment period closed on July 11.
EPA has decided not to issue final regulations because the risks associated with these facilities’ operations are addressed by existing federal and state programs and industry practices.
“The success of Nevada’s robust mine bonding program protects public safety and our environment and ensures our critical mining industry can operate with certainty,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval in a statement. “I applaud the EPA for their thoughtful approach and thorough review of the proposed rule, for seeking comments from a diverse set of stakeholders and ultimately, for making the right decision. Today’s action by the Administrator recognizes the reality that the states have been capably regulating mine bonding without interference from Washington and should be allowed to continue to do so.”
“When litigation is used as a tool to attempt to force the government into unnecessary action against an industry, the result is bad policy,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “Today’s action shows that reason can prevail. Modern, advanced mining practices – coupled with existing state and federal environmental and financial assurance requirements – comprehensively cover the same risks contemplated under the CERCLA program.”
Great Basin Resource Watch was one of the plaintiffs in the years-old litigation via Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. GBRW Executive Director John Hadder said the group hasn’t yet discussed officially what will happen next but that the fight isn’t over.
“I guess the bottom line is that we’ll be back in court,” he said. “We feel that it is needed, and we’ll probably be back in court.”