EPA Gives Uranium Miners Free Pass to Pollute

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency signed away its authority to regulate water pollution from uranium mining today, providing a gift to the destructive and unregulated industry at the cost of water quality across the Mountain West.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that relinquished EPA’s legal authority to ensure that water aquifers are restored following the destructive practice of in situ leach mining.

The following is a statement from Geoff Fettus, senior attorney in the nuclear program at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“For decades the uranium mining industry has gotten a free pass to pollute, and now the Trump administration wants to just give up any pretense of protecting scarce water resources across the Mountain West.

“EPA has the legal authority – and the duty – to ensure that the uranium industry restores aquifers after it’s done mining. This action demonstrates that the EPA is more focused on protecting a polluting industry than it is on protecting people and our precious water supplies.”


NRDC has demonstrated that in every single instance, in situ leach mining -- in which chemicals are pumped into an aquifer to leach the uranium off the rock, allowing the toxic and radioactive water to be pumped to the surface -- contaminated the mined aquifer. The scale of destruction and long-term damage is unknown because of lax oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

EPA had moved to issue a regulation to force the industry to clean up after itself, but the Trump administration withdrew those rules and is now adopting an industry argument that EPA doesn’t even have the legal authority to protect the water. The legislative history demonstrates this to be false.


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