Firms Told to Put Money Where Their Mines Are

(CN) – To spare taxpayers from bearing the cost of cleaning up hazardous waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released new financial-responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry.

An unofficial version of the EPA’s proposal, to appear soon in the Federal Register, follows a court order and congressional directive under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, the agency said in a statement.

The proposal says owners and operators of certain classes of hardrock mines and mineral-processing facilities must demonstrate financial ability to address risks from hazardous substances.

Since the 1980s, the EPA has spent considerable resources cleaning up contamination from hardrock mines. The most recent analysis, from 2010 to 2014, shows that the agency spent nearly $1.1 billion on response and cleanup actions on hardrock mining and mineral processing sites, according to the statement.

“Far too often the American people bear the costs of expensive environmental cleanups stemming from hardrock mining and mineral processing,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. “This proposed rule, once finalized, would move the financial burden from taxpayers, and ensure that industry assumes responsibility for these cleanups. The proposed rule would also give companies an economic incentive to use environmentally protective practices that can help prevent future releases.”

In a separate action, also to be officially published in the coming weeks, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted the agency plans to issue notices of proposed rulemaking on similar financial-responsibility requirements for three other industries – namely chemical manufacturing; electric power generation, transmission and distribution; and petroleum and coal products manufacturing.

This notice is not a determination that financial-assurance requirements are necessary for any of these three industries. The EPA intends to move forward with the regulatory process, which will determine what, if any, financial responsibility requirements are necessary for these industries, according to the EPA statement.

The public may comment on the hardrock mining proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.