EPA Declines to Impose CERCLA Financial Assurance Regulations on Hardrock Mining

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a final action declining to impose financial assurance regulations on the hardrock mining industry under Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This proposal was directed at managing the financial cost of hardrock mining, particularly the cost of cleanup in situations where the mine operator went defunct before all cleanup could occur. The industry comments to the proposed rule pointed out several injustices with the manner by which the proposed rule was constructed, and the details regarding state and other protections currently in place to address concerns alleged by EPA. According to EPA’s press release, “After careful analysis of public comments, the statutory authority, and the record for the 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.” The press release is attached for your information and should be posted on EPA’s website shortly. The pre-publication version of EPA’s determination should be available here.

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn welcomed EPA’s decision, “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.”