EPA Adds Hardrock Mining Financial Assurances to Growing List of Agency Power Grabs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today sent letters to Secretaries Salazar and Vilsack regarding actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to impose financial assurance requirements on hardrock mining operations.

“The EPA has repeatedly sought to duplicate or supplant the jurisdictional activities of other federal agencies and the states,” Murkowski said. “In this case, either the EPA has failed to look at the facts, agencies with existing programs have failed to provide those facts, or both.”

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have required financial assurances for hardrock mines on federal lands since 1981 and 1974, respectively. In light of the statutory authorities and years of experience that those agencies already hold, Murkowski has sought the secretaries’ perspectives on whether EPA’s involvement is warranted.

“The EPA has a valuable role in protecting the environment, but responsible mining doesn’t mean no mining at all,” Murkowski said. “EPA’s involvement will decrease administrative flexibility, add significantly to the costs of doing business here and lead to even more minerals being produced overseas.”

In 2009, the EPA initiated a rulemaking under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act to establish financial assurance requirements for hardrock mines. EPA officials claim their involvement will ensure that taxpayers do not pay for environmental cleanups, but a robust set of laws and regulations are already in place to accomplish that task.

“Domestic minerals production creates jobs, increases our resource security and bolsters our economic well-being,” Murkowski said. “The burdens imposed on these projects must account for the major U.S. strategic interests at stake and preserve our ability to attract investment in a globally competitive sector of the economy.”