"WASHINGTON - February 26 - A federal court has ruled  that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must close a loophole that -- for more than 25 years -- has made it easy for mining companies, coal ash dumps, and a host of other polluting industries to skip out on costly cleanups by declaring bankruptcy. The case concerned EPA's failure to issue "financial assurances" standards that ensure that polluting industries will always remain financially able to clean up dangerous spills and other contaminated sites.
Attorneys Lisa Evans and Jan Hasselman with the public interest law firm Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club and environmental groups in New Mexico, Nevada, and Idaho in the case, decided late yesterday by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, based in San Francisco.
Environmental advocates hailed the decision as a victory that paves the way for new federal rules that would require hardrock and phosphate mine operators, metal finishers, wood treatment facilities, and other industries to post bonds covering the cost of potential future cleanups.
"By not promulgating financial assurance requirements, EPA has allowed companies that otherwise might not have been able to operate and produce hazardous waste to potentially shift the responsibility for cleaning up hazardous waste to taxpayers," Judge Alsup wrote in the decision. The undisputed evidence before the Court demonstrated that such financial assurance requirements result in better environmental protection and faster and more thorough cleanups.
When the Superfund law was passed in 1980, lawmakers gave EPA three years to start putting financial assurance regulations in place. More than 25 years later, these regulations remain unwritten. Under the terms of the decision, EPA has until May 4 to identify the industries that will be first subject to these financial assurance requirements.
"This victory paves the way for the new administration to correct a longstanding environmental problem while saving taxpayers billions of dollars at the same time," said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who argued the case before Judge Alsup. "New standards will push companies that deal with toxic substances towards more responsible practices."' read the rest of this good news here...thank you Earthjustice and Common Dreams!