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Final Agency Action on CERCLA 108(b) Rulemaking

Posted By Mark Ellis, Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Through a Federal Register notice published today, EPA took final agency action on its rulemaking under Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) with respect to the hardrock mining industry.  EPA decided not to issue final regulations because the agency determined that final regulations are not appropriate.  EPA analyzed the need for financial responsibility based on the risk of taxpayer funded cleanups at hardrock mining facilities under modern management practices and modern environmental regulations, i.e., the type of facilities to which financial responsibility regulations would apply.  EPA determined that the degree and duration of risk associated with modern production, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous substances does not present a level of risk of taxpayer funded response actions that warrant imposition of financial responsibility requirements for this sector.  The several billion dollars in financial assurance estimated under the proposed rule at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars would have severely impacted the mining industry in the U.S.  Today’s Federal Register notice is the agency’s final action on the proposed rule.  Environmental groups may challenge the agency’s final action, but given the broad discretion granted the EPA under the statute they will face an uphill battle.

A copy of the Federal Register notice is attached.


Download File (PDF)

Tags:  108(b)  CERCLA  EPA  hardrock mining  Superfund 

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President Trump Releases FY19 Budget Proposal & Congress Passes 2-Year Budget

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, February 12, 2018

This morning President Trump released his Administration's budget proposal for FY19. The Administration's budget comes on the heels of the passage of Congress's 2-year budget package. President Trump signed the deal into law Friday morning following it's passage late Thursday night. Congress's package raises budget caps by $300 billion in the next two years, increases the debt ceiling and includes nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Of the $300 billion, roughly $165 would go to the Pentagon with $131 billion earmarked for non-defense programs. 

President Trump's budget lays out plans for a $3.6 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years while simultaneously directing more funding to the Department of Defense. In many ways the FY19 budget proposal is similar to the FY18 proposal. It is interesting to note the Administration is pushing a focus on infrastructure across it's budget proposal, most likely as a way to sync the budget requests up with the infrastructure package. Below are some specific points of interest from the proposal, as each Department holds listening sessions IMA-NA staff will keep you updated on aspects of importance.

EPA

  • The Administration is asking for a further reduction of 34% in funding for the EPA. This would cap the Agency's budget at $5.4 billion for FY19. 
  • There is an emphasis on water infrastructure programs, to provide clean drinking water and provide necessary updates on wastewater infrastructure.
  • There is an increased focus on cooperative federalism as a way to improve EPA's enforcement efforts. This also includes a return to the EPA's core mission, and the continued defunding of "lower priority programs". 

Department of Commerce

  • The Administration is asking for $9.8 billion for the DOC, which would be an increase of 6% over FY17 enacted funding.
  • There is increased funding for the International Trade Administration to "allow ITA to conduct robust investigations into alleged trade violations, aggressively advocate for U.S. businesses facing tariff and non-tariff barriers abroad, and increase the capacity to closely review proposed foreign investments in U.S. businesses."
  • DOC's focus will continue to be promoting free and fair trade which has been a cornerstone of President Trump's vision for the country. 

Department of Labor

  • The Administration is asking for $9.4 billion for DOL, a $2.6 billion or 21-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level.
  • The President is asking for a budget of $376 for MSHA in FY19. The number is consistent with the FY18 request from the Administration.
  • There is a renewed focus on using DOL funding to help move the needle on workforce development. There is $200 million flagged for increasing apprenticeship programs, language to reform Job Corps, and simplify and consolidate existing federal workforce development programs. 

Department of Interior

  • The Administration is requesting $11.3 billion for DOI, which is a $2.2 billion or 16-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level.
  • The DOI will continue to focus on the President's call for Energy Dominance, working to manage development of public lands, increase revenues, and streamlining permits.
  • There is a focus on infrastructure in this request, noting that DOI manages an infrastructure portfolio valued at over $300 billion and much of it is in need of maintenance and investment.
  • Secretary Zinke gained the President's support to massively reorganize the Department. The budget asks for $18 million to fund the internal restructuring of DOI.
  • Funding for USGS is being cut by approximately $218 million overall, but the Administration asked for an increase of $11.5 million for the Minerals and Energy Resources Program.

To look at the President's Budget Proposal click here

Tags:  administration  budget  commerce  department of interior  EPA  msha  usgs 

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House Oversight Hearing of MSHA

Posted By Mark Ellis, Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on “Reviewing the Policies and Priorities of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).”  The sole witness was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo.  Subcommittee Chairman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) stressed that mine safety remains a priority of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, highlighting an interest in examining the regulatory agenda of MSHA and how MSHA intends to work with industry stakeholders to promote policies and practices that protect mine workers and encourage economic growth.  His opening remarks can be accessed through this link.  Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-CA) observed that this was the first hearing the subcommittee has held on MSHA in approximately 2½ years.  He highlighted a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association identifying a high incidence of progressive massive fibrosis in patients in Black Lung clinics in southern West Virginia, a theme taken up by other subcommittee Democrats.  During his testimony, Assistant Secretary Zatezalo discussed the current state of workplace safety within the mining industry, and how MSHA can strengthen American mining and ensure worker safety.  He highlighted a personal interest in addressing recent fatalities associated with powered haulage equipment.  His written testimony can be accessed through this link.


Tags:  Assistant Secretary David Zatezalo  House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections  MSHA 

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USGS Releases Annual Mineral Commodity Summaries

Posted By RJ Alpers, Thursday, February 1, 2018

On Wednesday, January 31, the USGS released its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries. The 2017 results show that U.S. mines produced estimated $75.2billion of raw mineral materials, a 6 percent increase over 2016. The $75.2 billion in nonfuel mineral production by U.S. mines this year is made up of industrial minerals, including aggregates, and metals. The USGS National Minerals Information Center report includes statistics on more than 90 mineral commodities that are important to the U.S. economy and national security. The report also identifies events, trends and issues in the domestic and international minerals industries. We encourage all to view the summary article and link to the report here.

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First Friday Ask IMA - Tomorrow Afternoon

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, February 1, 2018

Please join IMA-NA staff tomorrow, February 2nd, at 1:00 EST for February's First Friday call.  2018 is off to a big start with developments across the regulatory and legislative agenda. This month's call comes right on the heels of the State of the Union and several rapid changes on the WOTUS front. We hope you can join as we look forward to updating everyone on what staff is focusing on in DC and issues we see on the horizon.

Click here to register 

Tags:  first friday  outreach 

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EPA and Corps Finalize WOTUS Applicability Date

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Today, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced they have finalized the WOTUS applicability date proposal. The importance of the finalization of this extension of the applicability of the 2015 WOTUS rule cannot be understated. Last week's Supreme Court ruling opened the possibility for the 2015 Rule to go into effect, once the 6th District's nationwide stay was lifted.  Since the nationwide stay was issued, waters have continued to be protected under the pre-existing WOTUS definition and state rules, and the government has issued over 21,000 determinations establishing federal jurisdiction under the pre-existing WOTUS definition.  Luckily Administrator Pruitt and the EPA had the foresight to issue a proposal to push the applicability of the 2015 Rule for two years, while the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers propose and finalize a new version and interpretation of "waters of the US". Just last week the applicability proposal was sent over to OMB for review and there was a question whether the Administration would be able to finalize the applicability date in time.

This rule is a prudent and measured step to preserve the status quo and provide regulatory continuity for all stakeholders while EPA and the Corps engage in rulemaking to consider whether to repeal the 2015 rule and, if so, how to replace the 2015 Rule with a new well-founded, protective, and clear definition of WOTUS.

IMA-NA and our coalition partners are pleased by the EPA’s and the Corps’ quick action to avoid needless regulatory uncertainty and legal risk for mining and farming operations, developers, small businesses, and other land owners.  Absent this action by the agencies, the result would be months of additional litigation, regulatory chaos, and legal risk for countless land owners. 

To read the Final Rule click here

To read the Press Release click here

Tags:  Army Corps of Engineers  Clean Water Act  EPA  Regulations  Regulators  WOTUS 

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EPA Announces Withdrawal of "once-in, always-in" policy

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, January 29, 2018

On Friday, the EPA announced the withdrawal of a decades old classification policy under the Clean Air Act. The policy of "once-in, always-in" has been the standard for designating sources of air emissions as either "major sources" or "area sources", since 1995. The EPA defines the two classifications in the following manner: 

a “major source” as a one that emits, or has the potential to emit, 10 tons per year of any hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of hazardous air pollutants. Sources with emissions below this threshold are classified as “area sources.” Different control standards apply to the source depending on whether or not it is classified as a “major source” or an “area source.”

The policy of "once-in, always-in" meant that if sources crossed the threshold into the major source designation, the facility could never be considered an area source again. Stakeholders have argued this policy disincentivizes companies from working towards lowering their emissions once they've been classified as "major sources". The ability for companies and facilities to bring their emissions down to lower levels and have their status reflect those efforts is a positive step in providing more regulatory flexibility. The EPA hopes this will incentivize emissions reductions and will reduce regulatory inefficiency and burden. Opponents of this decision hold the opinion this change in policy is simply loosening air emissions standards for polluters. 

IMA-NA is supportive of EPA's ongoing work to update and revise their regulatory framework to provide commonsense policies that balance environmental protections with good business practices.

To read the press release click here

Tags:  clean air act  environment  EPA  Regulations  regulatory agenda 

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Supreme Court Rules on the Waters of the US Case

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Monday, January 22, 2018

This morning the Supreme Court issued their ruling in the Waters of the US case related to which courts have jurisdictional primacy in challenges to the Clean Water Act. The Court was of the unanimous opinion that challenges must be reviewed in federal district courts first rather than in the appeals courts. The promulgation of the 2015 Clean Water Rule set off litigation across the country in both district and appeals courts. The Supreme Court decision provides clarity on where to go to resolve disputes. The choice of court is significant because it affects the resources needed to litigate the merits of challenges, sets the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits and helps determine whether actions can be challenged in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings.

The court found in favor of the National Association of Manufacturers, who brought the suit along with several states, industrial stakeholders, and some environmental groups. The Administration and some other environmental groups were on the losing side of this decision. This outcome complicates the current push to repeal and replace the 2015 Rule. With this ruling the 6th District's nationwide stay is thrown into question. While EPA Administrator Pruitt took action to prevent the immediate implementation of the 2015 Rule, in the event of this decision from the Supreme Court, next steps are uncertain at this point. The EPA issued a proposal in December to add a so-called applicability date to the regulation, meaning it could not be enforced until 2020. This proposal should theoretically provide the EPA enough time to finish and finalize a new version of the Clean Water Rule, without the 2015 Rule being enforceable in the interim. As we have been from the beginning IMA-NA and the Waters Advocacy Coalition will remain engaged as the next steps become clearer.

To read the Supreme Court opinion click here

Tags:  Clean Water Act  EPA  regulation  Regulations  SCOTUS  supreme court  wotus 

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IMA and NISA Sign Letter to Trump Administration Encouraging the Nomination of Members to the STB

Posted By Chris Greissing, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
The Industrial Minerals Association - North America (IMA) and National Industrial Sand Association (NISA) are members of the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC).  The RCC is a large collection of trade associations representing a broad cross section of manufacturing, agricultural, and energy industries that depend on the railroads to deliver reliable and affordable service in order to remain competitive in a global market.  

The RCC has sent a letter to the Trump Administration encouraging the Administration to nominate new members and a permanent Chair to serve on the Surface Transportation Board (STB).  It is imperative that we have a fully-staffed STB committed to moving forward on freight rail policy reforms that will streamline overly burdensome regulatory procedures and promote greater competition in the rail sector.  There are currently only two of the five STB positions filled and no permanent chair causing progress to stall.  

A total of 72 associations and companies signed on to the letter, including IMA, NISA and several of our member companies.  IMA and NISA will continue to work within the coalition to promote commonsense solutions to the transportation issues our member companies are currently facing.  

The letter is attached.

 Attached Files:

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FERC Rejects Proposed Rule to Reinvigorate Coal and Nuclear Production

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On January 8th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) unanimously rejected Secretary of Energy Perry's proposal for new regulations that would favor nuclear and coal powered energy production. Secretary Perry proposed the "Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing" rulemaking as a way to address our national electric grid's reliability, but the move was seen as a way to help the two energy sectors that have been struggling recently. In the proposal, FERC was asked to favor power plants capable of storing a 90-day fuel supply on site, unlike renewable energy or natural gas plants. IMA-NA and NISA joined other stakeholders in asking FERC to reject the proposal on the grounds it would interfere with market forces by propping up older and less efficient plants that are struggling to compete with new energy sources. Specifically, this move would have handicapped the growing natural gas industry in the United States. Natural gas is a growing industry and one that provides low cost energy across the country for industrial, commercial, and individual consumers. IMA-NA is pleased with FERC's decision to reject this proposal.  It should be noted though, that the Commission initiated a new rule to look at the resilience of the electric grid in a more "holistic fashion". FERC has requested regional transmission operators submit information and materials to help the Commission decide what, if any, course of action is necessary to improve the resilience of the grid. Operators have 60 days to submit materials. 

To read the decision click here

To read the comments IMA-NA & NISA signed onto click here

Tags:  DOE  energy  FERC  natural gas  Regulations  Secretary Perry 

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