MAC: Mines and Communities

US Update

Published by MAC on 2006-09-13

US Update

13th September 2006

The US Senate is about to pass a so-called "Good Samaritan bill" in an effort to effect the cleanup of more than half a million (sic) abandoned mines, mostly in the Western US. But, as pointed out by Mineweb (September 14 2006), one NGO critical of mining claims this “will do little to solve the problems from old mines." Instead, says Earthworks, " it creates new loopholes in environmental laws for mining companies.”

The legislation is intended to ensure that contaminated abandoned minesites are rehabiliated without calling on taxpayers' contributions. For its part, Earthworks is pushing altenative bills, introduced by Rep. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, which would impose a fee on hardrock mining operations in order to finance a trust fund for clean-up. Says Earthworks: “States, local governments, and local non-profit organizations simply don’t have the resources to act as Good Samaritans to clean up the rivers and streams,”

The title "Good Samaritan" refers to that part of the legislation which ensures that, when mining companies do remediate sites acquired from defunct outfits, they will not have to face comprehensive legal liability for remedying environmental hazards they did not create.

Once again a three-ring circus has developed over implementation of Clean Air legislation - this time the section devoted to particulate matter. Most Republicans and industry are backing Bush's proposal to abide by current standards which only protect the health of a tenth of the population. The EPA proposes to strengthen the legislation - but only for daily limits, not annual ones. For its part the American Lung Association challenges the EPA to "endorse strong new standards that will fully protect Americans from this deadly pollutant or … continue to side with polluting industries and consign our citizens to years of choking pollution."

The EPA itself - the world's biggest environmental protection agency - is now under threat from job cuts and a relaxation of mandatory reporting. "EPA planning is now driven entirely by external fiscal targets without regard to the effects upon public or environmental health," according to the Executive Director of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsiblity), Jeff Ruch:

"The Bush administration seeks to 'disinvest' in environmental science, pollution control and global sustainability."

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