EPA rule on who pays for cleanups targets mining first

Associated Press / July 14, 2009
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DENVER - The Environmental Protection Agency, complying with a court order, will develop a rule to guarantee companies that mine everything from copper to uranium will pay for needed environmental cleanups, not taxpayers.

In February, a federal judge ordered the EPA to close loopholes that allowed some companies to get out of paying for the often costly cleanups after they seek bankruptcy protection.

The agency said it will develop similar financial responsibility requirements for other types of operations but started with hardrock mining because of the size of the operations, the amount of waste, and the number of mining sites on its Superfund national priorities list.

The EPA did not release specifics but said it will propose a rule by spring 2011.

The National Mining Association said the industry already is regulated by other state and federal laws that address financial responsibility.

The EPA “ignored critical facts and used inappropriate data in singling out US hardrock mining for financial assurance requirements,’’ the group’s chief executive, Hal Quinn, said.

In 2008, the Sierra Club and others sued the EPA, arguing it failed to establish financial responsibility mandates.

Attorney Jan Hasselman, who handled the suit, called the EPA decision an important step.