EPA delays rule on mining cleanup funding

EPA delays rule on mining cleanup funding
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended by four months the process of writing a regulation to ensure certain mining companies can pay their cleanup costs.

The rule would set standards for how hard-rock mining companies must demonstrate their ability to pay for cleanups, whether through financial bonds or other means, particularly if they go bankrupt. Hard-rock mining includes minerals such as gold, silver, copper and lead, but not coal.

The EPA late Friday extended by 120 days the public comment period for a December proposal on the standards written under former President Obama.

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The rule is opposed strongly by Republicans and the mining industry, who say it would unnecessarily increase costs.

Citing the $171 million estimated cost to businesses from the rule, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the new comment period would increase input from affected businesses.

“As I said to EPA staff on Tuesday, we are here to listen, and by extending this comment period we are demonstrating that we are listening to miners, owners and operators all across America and to all parties interested in this important rule,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn BarrassoLive coverage: Senate begins debate on ObamaCare repeal What Trump can do to cripple ObamaCare Top Republican: Senate will vote to proceed to House healthcare bill MORE (R-Wyo.) welcomed the move.

“This proposed mining rule could have very significant impacts,” he said in a statement. “The EPA should not rush through duplicative regulations that could have serious economic consequences.”

Environmental groups support the proposal as a way to ensure that mines are not abandoned and that polluters pay their costs, saving taxpayers the billions that the federal government spends on mine cleanups. Congress called for the rule in 1980.

The EPA is under a court order to make the rule final by Dec. 1, a deadline Pruitt said the agency will meet.