Trump reversal of mining pollution rule challenged in court - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Trump reversal of mining pollution rule challenged in court

Posted: Updated:

By MATTHEW BROWN
Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Environmental groups challenged the Trump administration in federal court Wednesday over its rejection of an Obama-era proposal that would have required mining companies to prove they have enough money to clean up their pollution.

The Idaho Conservation League, Earthworks, Sierra Club and other groups filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. asking it to review last year's move to drop the rule.

An attorney for the environmental groups said the reversal under Trump leaves taxpayers responsible into the future for mining pollution that fouls waterways and endangers public health. The mining industry responded with a pledge to intervene in the case on behalf of the administration.

The proposal applied to "hard-rock" mines that extract gold, iron, lead and other minerals, but not coal.

The mining industry and members of Congress from Western states had pushed to kill the rule, arguing it was unnecessary because of existing cleanup requirements already enforced at the state and federal level.

In December, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt agreed with the industry's contention that modern mining techniques decrease pollution risks.

During the tenure of former President Barack Obama, the EPA determined the opposite - that mining pollution remains an ongoing concern and companies should be required to provide "financial assurances" such as surety bonds for possible cleanup projects.

There is a long legacy of taxpayer-funded mine cleanups at many sites where companies went bankrupt and abandoned polluted sites.

Trump's EPA "just waved their hands at all their prior findings and offered some really flimsy rationale for why they shouldn't be considered," said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin, who represents the environmental groups. "It's a thinly veiled handout to the mining industry."

EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

An industry representative rejected the group's claims and said the federal government should be doing more to encourage domestic mining, not imposing rules that duplicate existing regulations.

"The EPA's decision not to impose unnecessary additional financial burdens on the hard-rock industry was a step in the right direction that should and will be defended," said National Mining Association Senior Vice President Ashley Burke.

The mining association's chairman, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., was singled out by Montana regulators in March as an industry "bad actor" because of pollution at mines operated by his former company, Pegasus Gold Corp., which went bankrupt in 1998.

Baker denied responsibility for tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded cleanup costs at the Pegasus mines. He's now president of Hecla Mining Company, which is challenging the bad actor designation in court as it seeks to build two copper and silver mines beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwestern Montana.

Hard-rock mining companies would have faced a combined $7.1 billion financial obligation under the Obama era rule, costing them up to $171 million annually to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future cleanups, according to an EPA analysis.

Since 1980, at least 52 mines and mine processing sites had spills or other releases of pollution, according to documents previously released by the EPA.

The industry's troubles were highlighted in 2015, when an EPA cleanup team accidentally triggered a 3-million gallon (11-million liter) spill of contaminated water from Colorado's inactive Gold King mine, tainting rivers in three states with heavy metals including arsenic and lead.

The financial assurance rule was proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2017 after environmental groups pressed the government to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

Coal mines are required to provide assurances that they will pay for pollution cleanups under a 1977 federal law.

___

Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at @matthewbrownap

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More From wfmj.comHot ClicksMore>>

  • School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas

    School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:45 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:45:51 GMT
    (AP Photo/David J. Phillip). Santa Fe High School graduates bow their heads in prayer during a Baccalaureate service Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas. A gunman opened fire inside Santa Fe High School Friday, May 18, 2018, killing multiple people.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip). Santa Fe High School graduates bow their heads in prayer during a Baccalaureate service Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Santa Fe, Texas. A gunman opened fire inside Santa Fe High School Friday, May 18, 2018, killing multiple people.
    Prosecutor tells seniors graduating from Texas high school where mass shooting occurred: 'You are entering into a war zone in this world, and it's a spiritual war zone'.More >>
    Prosecutor tells seniors graduating from Texas high school where mass shooting occurred: 'You are entering into a war zone in this world, and it's a spiritual war zone'.More >>
  • School shooting victims killed attempting to ward off gunman

    School shooting victims killed attempting to ward off gunman

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:45 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:45:38 GMT
    (AP Photo/Fareed Khan). Abdul Aziz Sheikh, center, father of Sabika Sheikh, a victim of a shooting at a Texas high school, shows a picture of his daughter in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 19, 2018. The Pakistani foreign exchange student is among tho...(AP Photo/Fareed Khan). Abdul Aziz Sheikh, center, father of Sabika Sheikh, a victim of a shooting at a Texas high school, shows a picture of his daughter in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, May 19, 2018. The Pakistani foreign exchange student is among tho...
    An outgoing and 'really funny' student who blocked the door to try to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom and an exchange student who aspired to work in civil service were among the 10 people killed at a...More >>
    An outgoing and 'really funny' student who blocked the door to try to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom and an exchange student who aspired to work in civil service were among the 10 people killed at a Texas high school.More >>
  • Toxic cloud caused by Hawaii volcano lava emerges over ocean

    Toxic cloud caused by Hawaii volcano lava emerges over ocean

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:45 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:45:30 GMT
    (U.S. Geological Survey via AP). In this image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava from fissure 20 enters the ocean near Pahoa, Hawaii on Sunday, May 20, 2018. The volcano that is oozing, spewing and exploding on Hawaii's Big Island has gotten...(U.S. Geological Survey via AP). In this image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava from fissure 20 enters the ocean near Pahoa, Hawaii on Sunday, May 20, 2018. The volcano that is oozing, spewing and exploding on Hawaii's Big Island has gotten...
    White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass are billowing into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano pours down a hillside and into the ocean.More >>
    White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass are billowing into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano pours down a hillside and into the ocean.More >>
  • More NewsMore>>

  • Sen. Schiavoni pledges support for fellow Democrat Cordray

    Sen. Schiavoni pledges support for fellow Democrat Cordray

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:46 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:46:25 GMT
    Joe Schiavoni (L) Richard Cordray (R)Joe Schiavoni (L) Richard Cordray (R)

    State Senator Joe Schiavoni is throwing his support behind the man who beat him for his party's nomination for Ohio Governor.

    More >>

    State Senator Joe Schiavoni is throwing his support behind the man who beat him for his party's nomination for Ohio Governor.

    More >>
  • Schiavoni says school safety needs to be priority for lawmakers

    Schiavoni says school safety needs to be priority for lawmakers

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:43 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:43:23 GMT
    Sen. Joe SchiavoniSen. Joe Schiavoni

    School safety needs to be a top priority for lawmakers according to State Senator Joe Schiavoni.  Schiavoni is a democrat representing the 33rd Senate District. His statement to 21 News comes on the heels of last week's deadly school shooting in Texas. Senator Schiavoni says he doesn't know how many times our nation has to see the disturbing images of children running from a school building before we pass legislation providing funding to help make schools safer. "I am as ...

    More >>

    School safety needs to be a top priority for lawmakers according to State Senator Joe Schiavoni.  Schiavoni is a democrat representing the 33rd Senate District. His statement to 21 News comes on the heels of last week's deadly school shooting in Texas. Senator Schiavoni says he doesn't know how many times our nation has to see the disturbing images of children running from a school building before we pass legislation providing funding to help make schools safer. "I am as ...

    More >>
  • Trooper, passerby rescue miracle fawn born on I-76 in Jackson Twp.

    Trooper, passerby rescue miracle fawn born on I-76 in Jackson Twp.

    Monday, May 21 2018 6:26 PM EDT2018-05-21 22:26:14 GMT

    An Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper from the Canfield Post says it was a birth story like no other. 

    More >>

    An Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper from the Canfield Post says it was a birth story like no other. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms