Newspaper column: Western officials fear new EPA rules could cripple mining operations

There is growing fear among officials across the West that in the waning days of the Obama administration his Environmental Protection Agency may enact regulations that could cost the hard rock mining industry billions of dollars, jeopardizing jobs and entire communities.

Earlier this year, the EPA, as is its wont, settled a lawsuit from a passel of self-styled environmental groups by agreeing to write further regulations requiring additional financial assurances — in the form of expensive surety bonds — that mining sites will be adequately cleaned up and reclaimed at the end of operations.

The court gave the EPA until Dec. 1 to write these new rules.

Lest we forget, it was the geniuses at the EPA who bungled the reclamation of the Gold King mine near Silverton, Colo., a year ago, dumping millions of gallons of toxic-metal-laced pollutants into the Animas River, turning it a bright yellow.

The Western Governors’ Association and the chairs of two key U.S. House committees have sent letters to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the EPA, asking for information about what the agency plans to do and pointing out that the states and various federal agencies already have reclamation bonding requirements in place and that any additional requirements could be duplicative and costly to the industry.

The letter from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, stressed their concerns that the EPA is not analyzing existing federal and state reclamation requirements.

“If the Agency fails to reduce the amount of the CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, otherwise dubbed the Superfund Law) financial assurance obligation to account for these programs, it will result in the unnecessary and duplicative imposition of many billions of dollars of financial assurance requirements on the mining industry.”

The governors’ letter, signed by Wyoming’s Matthew Mead and Montana’s Steve Bullock, asks for an explanation as to why “existing state programs are insufficient to address the concerns …”

A spokesman for Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy commented, “This administration has an unfortunate track record of issuing onerous regulations that are especially painful for states like Nevada that have large mining sectors. As an active member of the Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Hardy will continue to work with the chairman to hold the EPA accountable and prevent job-killing regulations from doing further damage to our state economy.”

Nevada Mining Association President Dana Bennett has sent a letter to EPA officials saying that the new regulations would have significant economic impact on all miners in the state, “but it will be Nevada’s small miners, who have limited financial and human resources, that will be hit the hardest.”

She also said the proposed rules duplicate currently effective state and federal programs.

Bennett wrote that the EPA has failed to establish a need for further federal rulemaking and has not provided those who will be affected with necessary scientific or economic analysis, noting there has been no cost-benefit analysis and that the costs “appear to vastly outweigh any potential health or environmental benefits.” (2016 Letter re CERCLA)

She also argued that current mines should be exempted from any new programs because it would be fundamentally unfair to add unanticipated regulatory costs that would “threaten the economic viability of the mines and associated jobs and community benefits.”

The National Mining Association has reported that “a growing number of organizations – from state governments to surety underwriters — are expressing concern that EPA is about to impose economically harmful and unnecessary bonding requirements on mineral mining companies.”

In mid-June the House Natural Resources Committee passed a package of 19 mining bills to address funding, technical and legal impediments to mine cleanup efforts. Of course, that will not deter the EPA.

Bishop said at the time, “If we’ve learned anything from the EPA’s Gold King mine disaster, it’s that the federal government lacks the expertise, resources and capacity to reclaim abandoned mines. … This package provides much-needed liability protections and creative solutions to develop the technical talent and funding resources to ensure cleanup is done safely and without further delay.”

According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, mining accounts for a large majority of the jobs in Esmeralda, Eureka and Lander counties and a large percentage in several other rural counties. Excessive regulatory costs added to the already uncertain fortunes of mining companies in a volatile market could devastate some communities that rely on gold, silver, copper and, perhaps someday, lithium production.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

The Coeur Rochester silver mine in the Humboldt River Basin (USGS photo) States.

EPA chief clueless on climate change facts

Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA, insisted that climate change science is a settled topic and no heresies are allowed, but she can’t offer any facts to back up her religion.

She claimed droughts “are becoming more extreme and frequent,” but the opposite is true.

She claimed hurricanes are more frequent and more intense, but the opposite is true.

She claims climate change is real and it is happening now. But Bjorn Lomborg, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports, “The latest study from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that in the previous 15 years temperatures had risen 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. The average of all models expected 0.8 degrees. So we’re seeing about 90% less temperature rise than expected.”

Never let the facts get in the way in the way of your dogma.

Gina McCarthy grilled by Jeff Sessions. (IBD photo)

 

New EPA ozone rules will cause economic damage to Nevada

Smog over Las Vegas (R-J photo)

The Environmental Protection Agency this past week issued draconian new regulations that slash the levels of ozone allowed in ground-level air, posing a particular problem for all of Nevada.

“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy blithely.

The order cuts allowable ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion, for which most states have yet to draw up compliance plans, to either 65 or 70 ppb. The agency is still quibbling over the exact level but already is planning to conduct hearings on whether to cut the allowable level to 60 ppb. (Yes, that’s parts per billion. Think of 1 ppb as the equivalent of one drop of ink in the tanker of the largest gasoline tanker truck.)

While ozone is naturally occurring, much of the ground-level ozone is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels

In order to comply with ozone limits, states will have to create contingency plans under which power plants, manufacturers and agriculture operations must cut back or shut down altogether.

Approximately a third of the country is out of compliance with the cur¬rent standard of 75 ppb and cutting to 60 ppb would leave 95 percent of the country out of compliance.

It is bad enough that much of Nevada’s ozone is blown in on the winds from smog producing California cities, Asian coal-fired power plants and wildfires, but a recent study found that the Great Basin area is the bulls-eye center for something called stratospheric intrusions that bring ozone from the stratosphere down to the surface.

Researchers took readings from a mountain top 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas and found that stratospheric intrusions added at least 30 ppb to the natural ozone level, which is usually 50 to 60 ppb. That pushes the ozone level to at least 80 ppb and violates EPA’s current standard, much less the new, more stringent one.

According to the EPA, Clark County at 77 ppb on average for the past three years already exceeds the current 75 ppb limit. A lower limit would put White Pine County’s 74 ppb over the line. Lyon County at 69 ppb and Washoe at 68 ppb would exceed a 65 ppb limit. Churchill would squeeze under at 56 ppb. But none of the other Nevada counties even have ozone monitoring stations at this time, and thus the impact is unknown.

The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the ozone rule could cost $270 billion a year — the most expensive regulation in history.

To which McCarthy replies, “Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses, but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.” Since when is thumb-twiddling a job?

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars.

For Nevadans it will cost $23 million more to own and operate vehicles. The Silver State’s gross state product would be reduced by $19 billion and 11,224 jobs a year would be eliminated.

To add insult to injury, the science linking respiratory ailments to ozone levels is widely disputed and unsettled.

Maybe the EPA will next ban people from living in Nevada. That might be the only way to comply with the new rule.

Or maybe the EPA will relent. Don’t hold your breath.

 

Ozone regs: EPA tells Nevada to suck it up

The EPA today issued regulations that slash the levels of ozone allowed in the air.

“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, according to The Hill.

The order cuts allowable ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 ppb with plans to further lower that to 60 ppb.

Air from the ozone-rich stratosphere sometimes “intrudes” down to the surface in the springtime in the Intermountain West, making it harder for some regions to meet health-based standards for ozone pollution. (Credit: Meiyun Lin, Princeton University and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory)

While ozone is generally a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, it is also naturally occurring.

In fact, according to a recent study, a lot of the ground-level ozone in the Great Basin area comes from something called stratospheric intrusions that bring air from the stratosphere down to the surface.

Researchers took readings from a mountain top 30 miles northwest to Las Vegas and found that stratospheric intrusions added at least 30 ppb to the natural ozone level, which is usually 50 to 60 ppb. That pushes level to 80 ppb and violates EPA’s new standards, as well as the current standard.

The study also noted the region gets a lot of ozone from California and Asia, as well as wildfires.

National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the ozone rule could cost $270 billion a year —the most expensive regulation in history.

To which McCarthy replies, “Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses, but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.”

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars. For Nevadans it will cost $23 million more to own and operate vehicles.

Maybe the EPA will next ban people from living in Nevada. That might be the only way to comply with the new rule.

Or maybe the EPA will relent. Don’t hold your breath.

It’s not the EPA, now its the ESA — Economic Stimulus Agency

Talk about bait and switch.

We were told that the EPA rule demanding every state to cut carbon output by 30 percent by 2030 was about saving the planet.

Not so, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress this summer. It is an economic stimulus program.

She told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

“And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It’s about increased efficiency at our plants…It’s about investments in renewables and

Gina McCarthy, head of EPA

clean energy. It’s about investments in people’s ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units.

“This is an investment strategy that will really not just reduce carbon pollution but will position the United States to continue to grow economically in every state, based on their own design.”

Never mind that your power bills will go through the roof and so-called global warming will not be delayed one second, it is like the trillion-dollar stimulus program that produced no jobs, but simply moved money from the pockets of losers (taxpayers) to the pockets of winners (crony capitalists like Elon Musk).