Environmental Groups Lose Appeal of EPA ‘Gold Mine Rule’

A Sierra Club lawsuit seeking tougher Environmental Protection Agency standards on emissions associated with gold mines was rejected by a federal appeals court, which found the agency properly limited its regulation to mercury pollutants.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled today that the EPA wasn’t required to set standards for so-called fugitive emissions while developing the “Gold Mine Rule.”

The Sierra Club and Desert Citizens Against Pollution sued the agency last year arguing that the EPA’s explanation for failing to set controls on emissions from “tailings ponds, leach fields and waste rock pile” while developing the rule was arbitrary and capricious.

“EPA reasonably concluded that the record before it provided insufficient information about the quantity of fugitive emissions or available methods of controlling them,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams wrote in the ruling.

Seth Johnson, a lawyer for the groups with the environmental organization EarthJustice, said the ruling means that harmful pollutants from gold mining, such as arsenic, cyanide, lead and chromium, will remain unregulated.

“There are people who live next to existing and proposed gold mines and this ruling is going to hurt them,” Johnson said in a telephone interview. “We hope that states take note and do something about this.”

The case is Desert Citizens Against Pollution v. Environmental Protection Agency, 11-1113, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

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