NEPA rollback affects mining, not just climate

Statement of Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes

Zortman Landusky mine complex in Montana’s Little Rockies. Tens of millions of dollars of cleanup costs (and counting) foisted on Montana taxpayers by Pegasus Gold when it went bankrupt. Credit: Earthworks

Background:

Last week, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Today, the President will personally announce proposed rules that would fundamentally undermine it. Although much attention is properly focused on the climate impacts of this announcement, NEPA governs how all federal environmental decisionmaking occurs. That includes the hardrock mining industry, which the Environmental Protection Agency tells us is the nation’s #1 toxic polluter, and the polluter of 40% of the headwaters of western U.S. watersheds.

Statement of Earthworks Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes:

The President’s proposal to hamstring the National Environmental Policy Act harms both our environment and our democracy. 

A hardrock (e.g. copper/gold/uranium) mine is forever. Companies proposing new mines today acknowledge they’ll pollute water for hundreds or even thousands of years

Communities downstream of these mines deserve, at a minimum, a transparent process where their voices can be heard. NEPA’s purpose is to provide this process.

President Trump’s proposal would effectively silence the voices of communities impacted by mines. And mining companies too may suffer as a consequence.

According to global mining company executives surveyed every year by the Fraser Institute, NEPA puts the U.S. at a competitive advantage relative to other jurisdictions around the world. Without NEPA’s transparency, mining companies risk their social license to operate in the United States.

If the U.S. mining industry wants to speed mine permitting, they should stop dragging their feet. The Government Accountability Office examined mine permitting and found that companies, not the government, are most often responsible for delays because of failure to provide adequate information. Information that, under the President’s proposal, they might not have to provide at all.”