Mining Leaves Taxpayers Cleanup Bill
The DoD is counting on tRump’s proclivity to abandon environmental protections… a topic that the mining industries are well versed in. Mining leaves taxpayers a cleanup bill that’s beyond incredible, and the military’s environmental contamination could exceed it. ~Don Chapin
REPOST of the original article by Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff , Monday March 18, 2019
There are many ways in which Donald Trump has rewarded companies while eroding environmental policies, but the mining industry in particular has benefited spectacularly. Not only have there been specific gifts to the coal industry in terms of relaxing rules around coal ash retention ponds and completely scrapping the Clean Power Plan, but mining in general has been handed giant cash grabs in the form of additional public lands opened to mining and relaxed rules around dumping mining waste in streams. And those are just the big, easily visible changes. CNN also found that there has been a 60 percent drop in inspections (apologies, but this link is no longer working. We’re leaving it here for reference) and an even larger decrease in the number of cases forwarded to the Justice Department for prosecution.
For polluters, Donald Trump represents a free lunch. For taxpayers, not so much.
As Mother Jones reports, the potential environmental damage caused by mining is immense. And since rules around cleanup have often allowed companies to “self bond”—making a promise to conduct a proper clean up without actually acquiring insurance to cover that future cost—failing companies can leave taxpayers holding both the bill and an environmental disaster. For example, a single abandoned gold mine in the mountains south of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana has left the area with a legacy of discolored water so polluted with acid that contact with it “makes skin burn and turn red.” After 20 years of attempted cleanup, the bill for dealing with this single mine is approaching $100 million, and the cleanup is still in early stages. The final bill is inestimable, and no approach is likely to restore the pristine water the area enjoyed previous to mining.
Before mining begins, companies are expected to set aside money to cover reclamation, based on cost estimates made by the Interior Department. Experience has demonstrated that the number provided is often far too low to begin with, but companies have routinely appealed before agreeing to even lower numbers in arbitration or in court. And even then, the ability of larger companies to “self bond” can mean that the supposed money set aside can amount to nothing at all when the bill comes due.
The total of reclamation costs already carried by taxpayers is in the billions, and the issue is only getting worse as deregulatory efforts like those instituted by Trump make it easy to centralize the gains, and externalize the costs.