July 11, 2017

The Honorable Scott Pruitt
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Mail Code 1803A
Washington, DC 20463

Submitted via regulations.gov

Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-SFUND-2015-0781

RE: Financial Responsibility Requirements Under CERCLA 108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry 82 Fed. Reg. 3388 (Jan. 11, 2017)

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Proposed Rule, “Financial Responsibility Requirements Under CERCLA § 108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry.”

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC urges the EPA to withdraw the Proposed Rule and issue a finding that no new rule is necessary. RDC members in the hardrock mining industry, as well as the support sector for mining, have submitted substantial and reasonable evidence for the Administrative record, such as the July 11, 2017 letter submitted for the record by the Alaska Miners Association (AMA, July 11, 2017).

As the Alaskan economy is dependent on natural resource development, including mining, it is vital to have predictable and efficient federal and state permitting processes that are based on sound science. Article VIII, Section I of the Alaska Constitution mandates “the settlement of Alaska’s land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest,” to encourage economic prosperity for Alaska’s peoples. RDC is concerned the proposed rule will impact the ability of its membership to responsibly develop Alaska’s natural resources.

RDC’s membership includes the five large producing hardrock mines in Alaska, and several more in either the exploration or permitting phase, as well as many smaller operations throughout Alaska. 

The mining industry in Alaska provides jobs across the state, with an average salary over $108,000 per year, double the state average for all sectors. Mining contributes tens of millions to local governments, and over $100 million to state government through royalties, rents, fees, and taxes.

Additionally, Alaska’s mining industry provides payments to Alaska Native corporations, benefiting all 12 regional corporations, and over 220 village corporations across the state, many of which are RDC members.

This Proposed Rule is a major federal action and was pursued without adequate consultation with stakeholders, recognition of existing state and federal requirements for financial reassurance, and demonstration of the need for the regulations, especially in states like Alaska.

Moreover, the EPA’s Proposed Rule is unwarranted and duplicates Alaska’s existing requirements. RDC contends the EPA should avoid imposing an expensive requirement that replicates Alaska’s proven laws. 

Among the many concerns RDC has with the proposed rulemaking, we urge the EPA to fully review the following concerns as outlined in the AMA, July 11, 2017 letter:

  • Proposed Rule Fails to Recognize Modern Mining Practices and Demonstrate Risk from Current Hardrock Mining Industry
  • CERCLA Requirements are Already Met by Existing State and Federal Programs
  • EPA Failure to Perform Consultations with Alaska Native Corporations
  • EPA Lack of Consultation with the Financial Industry and High Cost Versus Minimal Benefits of the Proposed Regulations
  • EPA Proposed Rule Undermines the Alaska Statehood Act
  • Proposed Rule Inconsistent with Executive Order 13777 

In closing, RDC urges the EPA to halt this flawed process, withdraw the Proposed Rule, and demonstrate that no new rule is necessary. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.