EPA passes on rule covering U.S. hardrock miners’ cleanup costs

Native copper-replaced cross-bedded sedimentary rocks from the Precambrian of Michigan, USA. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday it would not act on a proposal to require hardrock mining companies to show they can afford to clean up their sites.

“EPA is confident that modern industry practices, along with existing state and federal requirements address risks from operating hardrock mining facilities,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

The financial responsibility proposal, issued by the administration of President Barack Obama, was supported by Democrats and environmental groups, but opposed by the mining industry and Republicans.

It would have required companies mining metals such as gold, silver, copper and lead to show they had the financial means to clean up their sites once they finished mining by issuing bonds or buying insurance. It was partly aimed at taking the burden off Washington to clean up sites when miners declare bankruptcy.

It represents the latest move by Pruitt, an appointee of President Donald Trump, to reverse or weaken a series of regulatory actions by the Obama administration, often at the request of the affected industries.

The agency faced a court-ordered deadline of Friday, Dec. 1 to take final action on the proposal.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised the decision.

“I’m pleased the EPA took all of the facts into consideration and decided against imposing new, duplicative and burdensome financial assurance requirements for hardrock mines,” Murkowski said in a statement.

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