After the Environmental Protection Agency announced in December that it would not move forward on regulations for hardrock mines, six environmental groups took the agency to court last month, arguing that the decision could harm cleanups for mines throughout the U.S.
On Friday, 14 states, including Nevada, entered the legal fray, filing a motion to intervene in the case over whether the environmental agency was meeting its congressional mandate to require financial assurances from mining operators to clean up pollution.
The case is the latest in more than a decade of wrangling over the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA. In its decision last December, the EPA argued that the move would leave more power to states, like Nevada, which has bonding requirements for miners.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate for governor, said that Nevada and the other states, led by Arizona and New Mexico, sought to defend “the EPA’s deference.”
“The EPA’s deference to Nevada’s exiting regulations is a great example of cooperative federalism in action, which is why Nevada, along with so many other hardrock mining states, is intervening to defend the EPA’s imminently [sic] reasonable decision,” Laxalt said in a statement.
But the groups pushing back against the EPA, including the Sierra Club and Nevada-based Great Basin Resource Watch, said the agency’s decision, under the leadership of EPA Director Scott Pruitt, was a blow to strengthen the requirements to clean up mines across the West.