What They Are Saying: Trump EPA Launches Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains to Effectively Address Abandoned Mine Lands, Accelerate Cleanup Across the West

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WASHINGTON (September 4, 2020) — On Wednesday, at a press conference at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the creation of the Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains located in EPA’s office in Lakewood, Colo. This western lands-focused office will address cross-cutting issues unique to the region, and more effectively leverage existing EPA staff, expertise and resources in hardrock mining cleanup. Here’s what stakeholders and elected officials are saying:

U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Mark W. Menezes: “The new EPA Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will provide a more effective management approach to remediating the lands impacted by hardrock mining. DOE applauds Administrator Wheeler’s commitment to clean-up legacy sites, and leadership he’s show in elevating the importance of clean-up by bringing the office closer to the people who are most impacted. Not only will this new office address important issues unique to the region, it will be staffed with experts who will tailor their ideas to the local needs in order for the area to thrive.”

U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-03): “America is composed of many regions with unique resources and needs, and one-size-fits-all governance of our natural resources doesn’t work. I appreciate the Trump Administration for recognizing the unique needs of the Great Plains and Mountain West by creating the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains. This office will be a valuable resource to Nebraska and our region, and will streamline solvable problems with speedy and safe solutions.”

U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03): “Today’s Environmental Protection Agency announcement of the creation of the Office of Mountain, Deserts and Plains is welcome news for those who call the West home. The Agency’s meaningful realignment of operations isn’t about where the functions of our federal government are performed, but instead, how the Agency will better address the issues and leverage essential Agency staff to meet the needs of our communities. I applaud the EPA for listening to the needs of our region, and I look forward to working with Assistant Administrator for Land & Emergency Management Peter Wright and the new Director of the Office of Mountain, Deserts and Plains.”

U.S. Congressman Paul Cook (CA-08): “The creation of this office is good news for California and particularly for my district. The new office will ensure a much-needed focus on western federal lands and issues that are unique to communities in our region, especially hardrock mining cleanup efforts. I applaud the EPA for their commitment to the West.”

U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04): “Hardrock mining is a key part of domestic mineral production, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. This new office will focus directly on these issues, allowing the EPA to further improve the world’s best mining standards. Its location in the West is also notable, as we should be putting more federal agencies right in the communities they serve. I applaud the EPA for their initiative and hope this office better enables us to steward our natural resources well.”

U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01): “The leadership of Administrator Andrew Wheeler continues to bring the EPA into the 21st century. Today’s announcement of the Colorado Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains establishes a lands-focused center outside of stifling Washington that’s capable of addressing the myriad of issues unique to the West. This realignment of resources will ensure a more responsive agency, one now accountable for coordinating and streamlining important efforts between western tribes, states, and locals. This is nothing short of a win for the West and I will continue to work with the agency to guarantee a smooth, effective transition.”

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (MT): “The creation of the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains within the EPA signifies a renewed focus and prioritization to accelerate clean-up of contaminated sites across the West. I am hopeful that this new office will promote accountability, streamline remediation, encourage the formation of new partnerships, and drive innovative, effective solutions. I look forward to working with the Administration to ensure important projects across Montana are advanced.”

U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05): “I applaud President Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler for continuing to bring federal resources out of Washington, DC and into the communities they serve. This is an exciting announcement that clearly demonstrates the EPA’s commitment to Colorado and the West. The EPA’s new Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will help bolster accountability, streamline cleanup efforts of abandoned mine lands, and facilitate better coordination with local, state, and tribal partners. The West has complex and unique issues related to hardrock mines and the remediation of legacy mine lands. This new office will be critical in supporting conservation organizations’ efforts to voluntarily undertake projects to improve conditions at abandoned mine lands in our area. This is yet another way that our federal government, under the current administration, is making strides to cut red tape and be more responsive to our Western communities’ needs.”

U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04): “Today’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency is yet another step the Trump Administration has taken toward increasing transparency and accountability in federal decision-making. By centralizing the decision-makers on resource issues that matter to the communities in the West – including hardrock mining and legacy mining cleanup efforts – we can better ensure the federal government’s resources, expertise, and innovative technology is being leveraged in the most efficient and scientific manner. This is a win-win: for the environment, the taxpayers, and the American people.”

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (WY-At Large): “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction because it will put decision makers closer to the people who fall under their jurisdiction. We know that out-of-touch decisions can cause untold challenges for individuals and businesses in Wyoming. I applaud the Trump Administration’s efforts to give local stakeholders more control over their communities – instead of empowering the federal government – and today’s announcement builds on that trend.”

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): “Today is an important day for the future of the West as EPA is finally recognizing the important regional and geographical challenges we face. For too long, the EPA has ignored the priorities of Western States, the creation of the Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains within the EPA means that there will now be dedicated staff living and working in the west focused on the priorities that matter to the people of Arizona. From Abandoned mine recovery, to future mine permitting, and other critical issues this EPA office will move forward projects that will create thousands of jobs for the American people. Now more than ever we need a strong domestic mining industry that can meet our own needs without being reliant on foreign adversaries and today’s announcement helps to make that possible. I want to thank Administrator Wheeler for being an outstanding friend to the West and his exemplary leadership of the EPA.”

U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05): “I appreciate the Trump Administration’s tireless efforts in protecting the well-being of our western states and tribal communities. Mining is a pillar of Arizona’s economy, and I hope that this effort creates a more transparent and accountable experience for Arizonans engaging with the federal government.”

U.S. Congressman Ken Buck (CO-04): “I am proud of the EPA’s decision to create the Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains right here in Colorado. This chosen location will not only streamline cleanup efforts, but increase accountability and better fit the needs of the American West. Thank you President Trump for your leadership on this.”

U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03): “Without a proactive mitigation plan in place, too many abandoned mines in Colorado continue to threaten the safety and quality of water for states in the West. I applaud this effort by the EPA to prioritize the reclamation of these mines and look forward to this newly created office providing a faster means to protect our communities.”

U.S. Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): “It’s important that hardrock mines with potential toxic leaks threatening waterways be contained and controlled. The EPA’s new Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will accelerate the clean-up of these sites, improving environmental outcomes for both people and public lands. I am grateful to the Trump Administration and Administrator Wheeler for prioritizing this uniquely Western issue.”

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum: ​“The new Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains acknowledges the unique ecological regions of the west and places a focus on environmental conditions over political boundaries, which will allow the EPA to work beyond the confines of the traditionally established regions while leveraging existing resources. We are thankful to EPA for recognizing that one-size-fits-all regulation doesn’t account for site-specific circumstances, and hope that this effort will lead to more common-sense management in the future.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez: “The Navajo people have suffered, and continue to suffer, enormous adverse impacts to their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health as a result of the federal government’s past investment in uranium extraction from the Navajo Nation. As well as catastrophic environmental impacts from un-remediated soil contamination and surface water and ground water contamination. Consequently, we support and applaud USEPA’s establishment of a new office within the Office of Land and Emergency Management whose primary focus will be to expediate the clean-up of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.”

Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Ken Wagner: “Thank you to Administrator Wheeler and Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento. The recognition that putting subject matter experts in the area that is affected by regulations and regulatory actions to work with state local and tribal governments achieves the best outcomes for public health and the environment. We are looking forward to continuing our partnership to restore valuable habitat and protect our natural resources.”

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Misael Cabrera, P.E: “I commend EPA for establishing a western lands-focused office that will address the complex problems associated with hardrock mine cleanups. I am encouraged by EPA’s intent to concentrate on innovative yet practical solutions that respect local concerns.”

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox: “This is great news for Montana and I welcome the renewed focus on hardrock mining cleanup in the West. I am grateful to EPA Administrator Wheeler and our Regional Administrator Sopkin for the attention they are giving to the needs of our communities.”

North Dakota House of Representatives Speaker Lawrence R. Klemin: “This new direction of coordination and communication is welcome news and will be beneficial to resolving problems associated with mining. The demise of the old adversarial position of EPA is long overdue.”

Mayor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota Paul TenHaken: “Through my role on the EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee, I’ve seen how focused resources and attention from the EPA can assist communities in becoming cleaner and healthier. This western lands-focused office will address important issues across the region, specifically for hardrock mining cleanup. I look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring to the environment and to communities across Region 8.”

Jefferson County, Colorado Commissioner Libby Szabo: “Government is at its best when it is in the midst of the people it serves. Lakewood Colorado is a perfect fit for the new Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains. The EPA will be able to continue its mission of accountability, streamlining services and coordination with local partners in its clean up efforts. I welcome this new effort to get these government offices out of Washington, D.C. and in to the areas they serve.”

El Paso, Colorado Commissioner Stan VanderWerf: “My hats off to the EPA for taking this bold step to locate the new Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains in Colorado! This will help Colorado and other western states address mining cleanup sites more effectively, a great step forward! I look forward to working with the new EPA team!”

El Paso, Colorado Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez: “I welcome the announcement of the new multi-state Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains here in the great state of Colorado. This new regional approach to solving environmental challenges unique to our region will ensure that our most valuable resources are protected and preserved. It will also leverage new and existing partnerships to improve efficiency and instill confidence that issues important for this part of the Country are prioritized.” ​

Trout Unlimited Colorado AML Program Manager Jason Willis, P.E: “Trout Unlimited has been working to clean-up abandoned hard rock mines to improve coldwater habitat and water quality for almost two decades. We strongly believe that addressing the huge backlog of orphaned mines that continue to pollute western streams and rivers will require empowering watershed groups and Good Samaritan organizations like ours to clean up the local sources of pollution that impact their own communities. We applaud EPA’s decision to open an office of Mountains Deserts and Plains, which signals a willingness by the agency to expand its efforts beyond CERCLA clean-ups to include these local collaborations.”

Colorado School of Mines President Paul C. Johnson, PhD: “Colorado School of Mines applauds the creation of this new EPA office and is excited about the potential to support its mission, especially given our close proximity, world-renowned expertise in both mining and environmental engineering, and many partnerships with the mining industry. Our faculty, students and alumni have much to offer, as they have been for many years leading efforts related to legacy mine cleanup and creating sustainable mining practices for the future.”

Colorado School of Mines Department Head M. Stephen Enders, PhD: “The Mining Engineering Department at Colorado School of Mines is delighted the EPA has announced its decision to form the Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains and to focus on prioritizing and accelerating the cleanup of Federal hard rock mining cleanup sites. The legacy of abandoned mine sites in the Western U.S. has been an environmental albatross around the neck of modern-day mining companies and it is way past time to clean them up. Colorado School of Mines has expertise and experience that can help address the cleanup, and we are looking forward to working with the EPA.”

Colorado School of Mines Professor Linda Figueroa, PhD, PECA, BCEE, F.ASCE: “ I am thrilled to hear about the new EPA Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains that will lead the effort to address abandoned mine lands and accelerate cleanup in the West. I look forward to working with the new EPA office on innovative technologies and strategies with the breadth of legacy mining stakeholders.”

American Exploration & Mining Association Executive Director Mark Compton: “This office will bring a greater level of coordination and responsiveness that will benefit communities on the ground,” said American Exploration & Mining Association Executive Director Mark Compton. “Modern mining provides the building blocks for so many technologies we take for granted, and American mining does it cleaner and safer than anywhere in the world. We have long supported changes to improve the Good Samaritan program so more pre-regulation sites can be cleaned up faster, and we will continue to be partners in that effort. We applaud President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for taking decisive steps to move these issues forward.”

For more information on the Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/trump-epa-launches-office-mountains-deserts-and-plains-effectively-address-abandoned

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