Senate passes Carson’s bill to strengthen mining regulations in Maine

Posted: May 09, 2017 | Senator Carson

AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Tuesday moved to protect Mainers from the hazards of metallic mining by banning the most dangerous kind of mineral extraction and enacting strict regulations on the extraction of metal in the state.

The bill — LD 820, “An Act To Protect Maine’s Clean Water and Taxpayers from Mining Pollution,” sponsored by Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell — was given initial approval by a unanimous roll call vote.

“We have to be serious about protecting our water, our health and our taxpayer dollars from the potential dangers of metallic mining,” said Sen. Carson. “This bill sends a simple message to mining companies: The health and wellbeing of Mainers will always come before your bottom line.”

A controversial 2012 law, spurred by JD Irving LTD’s interest in beginning new mining operations in Aroostook County, required the state to develop new rules to allow metallic mining in Maine. The Legislature has twice rejected rules proposed by Gov. Paul LePage’s Department of Environmental Protection, citing inadequate environmental protection.

Maine’s experience with metallic mining is marred by environmental catastrophe. The Callahan Mine was an open-pit copper mine located adjacent to and beneath Goose Pond in Brooksville. The mine closed in 1972, leaving 5 million gallons of toxic waste in its wake. Cleanup at the site is still underway today.

Sen. Carson’s legislation creates strong environmental protections in state laws, guaranteeing that any rules crafted by the DEP would follow specific requirements to safeguard Maine’s environment. That includes an outright ban on open pit mining, the most dangerous kind of metallic mineral extraction, and bans on the storage of “wet mine waste” that can seep into local rivers, ponds, lakes and floodplains.

The bill also requires mining companies to provide up-front funding for the cost, as determined by a third party, of clean-up associated with any spill or accident. Lastly, the bill requires that any future changes to Maine’s mining rules written to implement the law receive an affirmative vote from both houses of the Legislature.

LD 820 has won the support of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, environmental groups, activists and the Department of Environmental Protection.