WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) withdrawal of the agency’s unjustified ground water monitoring rule for in situ uranium recovery (ISR). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the primary regulator of ISR activities, already requires ISR operators to conduct ground water monitoring through license conditions.
“Today’s announcement is the right decision,” said Barrasso. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission – our nation’s principal nuclear regulator – has said there is no health or safety justification for EPA’s midnight rule. The NRC has regulated in situ uranium recovery for nearly 40 years. The agency has never found an instance of ground water contamination that would be addressed by this rule.
“I’m glad the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged this reality. I applaud it for withdrawing this punishing and unnecessary regulation on America’s uranium producers.”
The EPW Committee has jurisdiction over EPA and the NRC.
On Jan. 26, 2015, the EPA issued a proposed rule requiring, among other things, that uranium recovery operators conduct up to 30 years of ground water monitoring following ISR production.
On Oct. 5, 2016, the EPA sent its draft final rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
On Oct. 20, 2016, Barrasso and Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) sent a letter to OMB Director Shaun Donovan calling on the OMB to direct EPA to withdraw the rule. The letter also questioned the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis and asked OMB to conduct its own cost-benefit analysis prior to taking any further action on the rule.
On Dec. 1, 2016, Barrasso and Sens. Capito (R-WV) and Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to the Howard Shelanski, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB. The senators explained that if EPA finalized its proposed rule, the rule would effectively end ISR production in the United States.
On Jan. 4, 2017, the EPA decided not to finalize its rule. Barrasso praised EPA’s decision.
On Jan. 19, 2017, the day before the Obama administration left office, the EPA proposed a revised ISR rule for comment.
On Dec. 14, 2017, Barrasso sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling on the agency to withdraw the rule. In the letter, Barrasso explained that he recently learned that the NRC has had substantive and jurisdictional concerns with EPA’s proposals since the inception of EPA’s rulemaking. Barrasso wrote that he shares NRC’s concerns and called on EPA to withdraw the rule and work with the NRC to clarify the agencies’ respective jurisdiction over ISR activities.
Barrasso discussed this rule with Administrator Pruitt at an EPW oversight hearing on Jan. 30, 2018 and Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler at an EPW oversight hearing on Aug. 1, 2018.