heavy equipment

“…Montana has strong environmental protections regulating hard rock mining operations in the state. The plaintiffs’ position is counterproductive and ignores the lawful role of the states in implementing environmental regulations.”

Susan Dunlap

Montana Standard

Montana joined 12 other states Friday to intervene in a federal lawsuit to defend the state’s mining laws.

Tim Fox, Montana Attorney General, joined the coalition of mostly western states Friday in the motion. Eric Sell, a spokesperson for Fox, said it will enable Montana to have a say in the lawsuit.

Six environmental groups, including Missoula-based Earthworks, sued the Environmental Protection Agency last month for failing to promulgate a rule that would have forced hard rock mines to meet a federal financial bond.

Close to a decade ago EPA considered, by court order, establishing nationwide minimum bonding requirements for hard rock mining under Superfund law. That process was also due to a lawsuit brought against EPA in 2009 by environmental groups.

But, during that process, Montana Department of Environmental Quality and other states opposed the proposed federal bonding requirement. DEQ said in its letter to Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator, last year:

“Through this rule process, EPA has failed to identify any gap in coverage in Montana’s programs….The duplication and confusion created by this rule has no environmental or monetary benefit and if implemented would degrade the quality of environmental protection already in place in Montana.”

Sell said that the way the federal rule was written, if EPA enforced federal bonding requirements on hard rock mining, federal rules would preempt state regulation.

“We’re concerned it would degrade the environmental rules already in place,” Sell said.

Fox called potential federal regulation “unnecessary.”

“The EPA rightly deferred to the states to implement strong environmental protections for hard rock mining—just as Montana has done,” Fox said through a news release. “As DEQ made clear in its comments to the EPA, Montana has strong environmental protections regulating hard rock mining operations in the state. The plaintiffs’ position is counterproductive and ignores the lawful role of the states in implementing environmental regulations.”

In February 2018, EPA sided with Montana’s DEQ and other states, opting not to issue the rule mandating national bonding limits for hard rock mining operations. The Sierra Club and the Idaho Conservation League and other environmental groups filed suit in federal court, challenging EPA’s decision not to establish national minimum bonding requirements.

See the full article here


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