Nevada congressman calls EPA toxic chemical rule 'outrageous'

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- "Outrageous" federal rules for reporting toxic chemical releases should be rolled back, and environmentalists or others suing the mining industry should be required to post a bond to head off frivolous lawsuits, a pro-mining Nevada congressman said Monday.

Rep. Jim Gibbons told a House Resources subcommittee field hearing that the Environmental Protection Agency's reporting rules for toxic chemicals have "vilified the mining industry with its outrageous requirement to report the transfer of rocks as toxic releases into the environment."

Gibbons, a Republican, said something must be done to head off delaying tactics by environmental groups that are likely to be dismissed -- but not before a mining corporation scraps its plans.

"The intent is not to close the courthouse doors on anybody," Gibbons said. "This does not stop people from appealing or litigating an issue if they feel so concerned about it."

Gibbons came in for criticism by not inviting a Nevada-based mining watchdog group to testify at the hearing.

Tom Myers, executive director of Great Basin Mine Watch, said Gibbons apparently invited out-of-state watchdog groups because they weren't likely to show up, and said Gibbon's bond-posting proposal would hurt small groups like his.

"If conservation groups had to post a bond for the potential damage done to a project, it would effectively shut down citizen oversight of federal agencies," Myers said.

Gibbons denied snubbing the group. He said Reno-based Great Basin Mine Watch had made its views clear previously -- and in any case could submit written comments to the subcommittee.

Gibbons and Nevada's mining industry are backing a move by the EPA to find ways to ease the toxic reporting rules, which result in an inventory that offers a snapshot of the nation's pollution -- billions of pounds of chemicals, such as copper and zinc compounds, hydrochloric acid and lead released by hard-rock mining companies, coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities.

Kimberly Nelson, EPA's top official for environmental information, has said the agency will announce in the next several months a list of options it is considering, before initiating regulatory changes.


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