With Trump Regulatory Freeze, NASF Watching New EPA Superfund Clean-Up Rule’s Impact on Surface Finishing

With the Trump administration’s aggressive focus on regulatory overhaul, one of several dozen issues the NASF has been watching is an otherwise obscure rule for the hardrock mining industry. But in early December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new Superfund cleanup rule that NASF members should watch closely. The new proposal stems from an agency hazardous waste initiative under the Obama Administration that covers surface finishing as well as several other manufacturing sectors.

The latest proposed rule, which industry anticipated throughout 2016, would subject hard rock mining companies to a determination of future cleanup responsibilities and require each company to obtain bonds or insurance or self-assure to cover the cost of that clean up.

This is an important development for NASF members and finishing operations nationwide. A few years ago, EPA listed metal finishing on the list of sectors that would be targeted for what would be new, extremely burdensome requirements under the federal Superfund law that could potentially bankrupt both small and large companies.

NASF Has Advised Dropping Financial Assurance Requirements

NASF has been monitoring the rule’s progress for several years and held discussions with EPA, arguing that the agency’s approach was misguided on several fronts. EPA more recently expanded the metal finishing category to cover more facilities in the larger fabricated metals sector.

Outgoing EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus, who heads the federal hazardous waste program, argues that the agency’s approach of requiring a company to secure a bond, letter of credit or other financial assurance mechanisms would lead to more cleanups in the United States.

“This proposed rule, once finalized, would move the financial burden from taxpayers and ensure that industry assumes responsibility for these cleanups,” Stanislaus said. “The proposed rule would also give companies an economic incentive to use environmentally protective practices that can help prevent future releases.”

Mining Industry Shared “Case Study” with NASF Members in Washington

This past year, attendees at the NASF Washington Forum heard from National Mining Association’s Tawny Bridgeford, who highlighted the mining industry’s experience as a “case study.” She noted that the onerous EPA requirements in the pipeline for miners would severely impact surface finishing facilities if the rules weren’t curbed early in the process.

The proposed rule, which was moving to proposal stage in December, formally identified the next group of sectors in the pipeline for financial assurance rules, specifically electric power generation, transmission and distribution, and petroleum and coal products manufacturing.

The agenda of the new Trump administration will clearly have some bearing on the outcome of the mining and other regulations during 2017. Because the agency released its proposal so late in the year, the new temporary regulatory moratorium just announced by the White House over inauguration weekend is expected to delay and possibly derail it. More shortly.

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