WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), sent a letter to Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Catherine McCabe to request an extension of the comment period for the proposed rule titled: “Financial Responsibility Requirements Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry.”

“I am writing to ask EPA to extend the comment period for the above-referenced proposed rule for an additional 120 days, until July 10, 2017,” wrote Barrasso in the letter. “This rule will affect not only the mining industry, but could also establish a precedent for the electric utility, petroleum and coal products, and chemical manufacturing industries.”

Barrasso further explained why the current comment period is inadequate for a rule with such significant impacts. “A 60-day comment period is inadequate for this proposed rule. For example, EPA estimates that if the rule is finalized 221 facilities would need to obtain an estimated $7.1 billion in financial responsibility coverage. This estimate does not appear to be fact-based and needs close scrutiny.”

Barrasso emphasized the impacts the rule will have on the mining industry. “EPA also estimates that the proposed rule would cost the mining industry between $111 and $171 million a year, depending on what types of financial assurance are allowed by a final rule. Based on EPA’s numbers, these annual costs are as much as 11 times greater than the benefit to EPA of $527 million over 34 years – an average of $15.5 million a year.” 

Barrasso’s letter also noted the impact the proposed rule would have on state financial assurance programs. “Any financial assurance requirements under CERCLA will preempt state financial assurance requirements related to releases of hazardous substances. Given the breadth of the definition of the term ‘hazardous substance,’ EPA’s rule is likely to supersede almost any state requirements.”

Read the full letter here.