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DEP Proposes New Mining Rules

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is once again asking Maine lawmakers to consider new rules to address mining regulations in the state.

The Legislature has twice rejected similar proposals since 2011, and both times the debate over them has been contentious.

In a memo explaining the proposed rules, the state says existing rules on the books are inconsistent with state statute. In addition, the DEP says it has addressed environmental, technical and legal concerns expressed in previous proceedings by lawmakers and other stakeholders.

But Nick Bennett, a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, remains unconvinced.

“The Legislature rejected the past rules because they were not protective of the taxpayers and not protective of clean water,” he says. “This new proposal from DEP, which is very similar to what the Legislature rejected last year and the year before, will not protect the taxpayer and clean water, either.

Bennett says he’s especially concerned that the new draft rules do not appear to require a mining company to cover the cost of a mining accident. Instead, Bennett says taxpayers would have to pick up the tab.

“I feel very strongly, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine feels very strongly, that taxpayers should not have to pay for a mining company’s accident or a mining company’s pollution — the mining company should pay for that,” he says. “This just doesn’t require them to put enough money up front to cover the kind of catastrophes that happen at mines all too frequently.”

The DEP did not return a call seeking comment for this story. A public hearing on the proposed rules is scheduled for Sept. 15.