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EARTHWORKS endorses Feingold/Cantwell/Feinstein/Sanders initiative

Statement of Lauren Pagel, EARTHWORKS Policy Director

Washington, D.C., August 6th — S 1570, The Elimination of Double Subsidies for Hardrock Mining Industry Act, is legislation, like 1872 mining law reform, that is long overdue. We applaud Senators Feingold, Cantwell, Feinstein and Sanders for introducing it earlier this week.

Passage would generate $50 million per year, half of which would fund abandoned mine reclamation. This money is sorely needed. The EPA estimates that 40% of the headwaters of western watersheds are polluted by mining, and they also estimate that abandoned mine reclamation will cost $50 billion.

When companies operating in the United States deplete assets, the federal government permits them to deduct a fixed percentage of gross income, thereby reducing their taxes and encouraging investment.

However, in the case of hardrock mining on federal lands, the “depleted” mineral assets are never purchased by mining companies. That's because the 1872 Mining Law enables the mining industry to extract minerals on federal land without paying for them. Because the mining industry gets the minerals for free on federal lands, the percentage depletion allowance is actually a double subsidy.

In these difficult financial times, this bill will save taxpayers millions of dollars while cleaning up our nation's polluted waters.