Mining rule proposal in Maine voted out

April 3, 2014

The Maine Senate on Wednesday affirmed a vote in the House of Representatives that will force the Department of Environmental Protection to restart the process of implementing new large-scale mining rules, the Bangor Daily News reported.

The rules were developed after the passage of legislation in 2012 that called for new mining regulations that were designed to bring back mining that has been dormant since 1991. The legislation was driven by JD Irving Ltd. which expressed interest in mining copper and zinc on a 500-acre site it owns on Bald Mountain in Aroostook County (ME, Dec. 2012).

The rules were given preliminary approval by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection in January but were fiercely opposed by environmental groups.

Proposals for new regulations, which would apply to all of Maine, were debated for months by the citizen-led Board of Environmental Protection. 

However, the proposed rules began to encounter resistance as soon as they reached the Legislature, beginning with the Environment and Natural Resources Committee’s 8-3 vote to reject them in March. On April 1, the House voted 98-39 in favor of LD 1772, a resolve which orders the DEP’s process to start over with a due date of Feb. 1, 2016.

The Senate’s unanimous vote, which happened without debate, essentially upheld the committee’s recommendation and killed the proposed rules, but LD 1772 faces further votes in both the House and Senate.

Among the arguments lawmakers have made against the rules are that they don’t provide enough protection against contamination of groundwater in Maine and that there aren’t enough financial guarantees required to ensure that a mine operator will have the capacity to clean up when a project ends.

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