In prior blogs I have noted that challenges of old mines that contaminate water supplies. Many of these mines are over 100 years old, and those responsible are long gone, as are the companies that owned and profited from them. It is a legacy that a series of laws passed in the 1970s, and updated since, have been put into place to avoid future risks to the public. But challenges continue. Montana, the USEPA and the Justice Department is approved a $150 million cleanup at the ARCO mine in Butte. A MEIC lawsuit protected !50,000 acres from 287 oil and gas lease. The US Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that said the water injected into the ground in Hawaii that came out in the ocean is still regulated under the Clean Water Act. The southeast Michigan Resilience Fund awarded $1.5 million in grants to critical habitat cleanup. The Farm Bill was designed to use 10% of the funds for source water protection, injecting millions into this effort. The Administration agreed to the One Trillion Tree Initiative, planting 2.5 to 3.3 trillion trees per year to absorb carbon emissions and help to stem the loss of biodiversity.
At the same time, the federal government is proposing rules to roll back a 100+ year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, by reducing penalties for industries that cause the deaths of birds. These are rules affect nets over oil pits, at efforts to reduce accidental deaths caused by power lines, cell towers and wind turbines. Potentially is could lead to as many s a billion bird deaths. Likewise, the federal government rolled back the Waters of the US law that was finally approved in 2015 to settle a 25 year old Supreme Court direction. Critics argue the change does not comport with science in dealing with potential for runoff from lands and therefore we can expect this revision to go to court, but the states and local governments could regulate these more localized areas. The federal government as also accelerated pipeline construction by weakening the 1970 NEPA requirements, noting that all pipeline approvals need to be produced within 30 days, a difficulty task on some of these huge projects. The removal of co-benefits, those benefits that result from the regulation of one constituent that helps another, should be ignored for cost:benefit purposes. The effect of that change is to skew cost benefit ratios to embolden economic short term economic gains. We have seen this does not work with old mines. Ongoing challenges with the Mining Act of 1866 and people /states trying to create roads over wilderness to prevent their protection is a problem.
Added to al this is that EPA has relaxed their already relaxed enforcement in 2020. While the covid pandemic has created operational challenges, one has to wonder if this is a good idea. The lawsuit has already been filed challenging this pause in regulatory responsibility.