NMA Notes Growing Criticism of EPA’s Redundant Bonding Rules for Miners

As part of a settlement with environmental activists reached in federal court, EPA is considering rules this fall that will add to the financial assurance obligations already enforced by state and federal agencies that have far greater experience with the mining industry than EPA.

Now EPA is hearing criticism from every quarter. Congressional committee chairman with jurisdiction, western state governors, state regulatory agencies and the surety industry have recently added their voices to the concerns of the mining industry. All warn of a costly regulatory approach based on a superficial analysis that does not support the need for a redundant bonding requirement to ensure reclamation and other post-mining activities, if necessary, such as long term groundwater monitoring or treatment. All question the need for EPA to duplicate existing federal and state programs that already address the exact types of risks EPA is targeting.

In the linked letters to EPA officials below, the various organizations warn that EPA’s approach under the Superfund Law (CERCLA) is seriously flawed and must be rethought.  Among other critical observations made about the legal and policy infirmities in the agency’s approach are the following:

Allowing multiple claimants under the Superfund Law threatens the availability of funds to remediate post-mining sites. The Surety and Fidelity Association of America letter

The rule will result in the imposition of billions of dollars in unnecessary captial requirements on the mining industry and preempt existing state and federal authorities and financial assurance programs for mining. House National Resources Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee chairmen letter

Imposing duplicative financial assurance requirements on the hard rock mining industry will improperly hamper effective state programs. Western Governors Association letter

Usurping state authority by filling “alleged ‘gaps’ in state reclamation programs” that do not exist. Interstate Mining Compact Commission resolution