The first major test of the stricter mining trust fund standards established during the Clinton administration has been a flop. Earlier this year, environmental groups complained that the amount of money proposed for a trust fund to treat groundwater contamination at the proposed Phoenix Mine project near Battle Mountain was too small (HCN, 8/30/04: Will a mining-reform victory hold water in Nevada?). On Nov. 3, Nevada BLM state Director Bob Abbey upheld his agency’s approval of the mine expansion after Newmont Mining Corporation doubled the amount of money in the trust fund to nearly $1 million. The Environmental Protection Agency has said that nearly 40 times that amount is needed to adequately cover long-term groundwater treatment; the contamination could continue for up to 20,000 years after the mine is closed.
So much for the Endangered Species Act? In early December, the Western Governors’ Association held an executive summit to discuss reforming the Endangered Species Act (HCN, 12/6/04: Where do we go from here?). Recommendations included more clearly defining when a species is recovered and can be removed from the endangered species list, reducing private landowners’ liability for endangered species on their property, and more peer-review of agency science. California Rep. Richard Pombo, R, chairman of the House Resources Committee, has vowed to introduce ESA reforms in Congress next year, and is seeking the support of Western governors — most notably, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R. In March, the governors’ association will vote on formal recommendations to Congress.