US EPA withdraws proposed Obama-era rule change for uranium mining

Former US President Barrack Obama – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday it has withdrawn a regulation proposed in the last days of the Obama administration that aimed to tighten health and safety compliance rules for uranium miners.

On Jan. 19, 2017 – a day before Donald Trump took office as president – the EPA had proposed standards to regulate by-product materials produced by uranium in-situ recovery (ISR) activities, with a primary focus on groundwater protection and restoration.

The National Mining Association hailed the decision. 

On Friday, the EPA said existing rules were enough for the protection of public health and safety from radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with uranium and thorium ore processing.

The decision is the latest by the Republican Trump administration to roll back environmental rules promoted by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

EPA’s acting administrator Andrew Wheeler cast the proposed rule change as “unnecessary and punishing” on uranium producers.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has regulated in situ uranium recovery for nearly 40 years. The agency has never found an instance of ground water contamination that would be addressed by this rule,” Wheeler said in a statement.

The rule “failed to articulate a risk that justified the rulemaking, ignored the need for a realistic cost-benefit analysis, and underestimated compliance costs and impacts to small businesses,” NMA President Hall Quinn said.

(By Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Grant McCool)

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