The Maine Board of Environmental Protection unanimously endorsed Thursday a proposed overhaul of the state's mining regulations that had received almost 500 written comments before the public comment period closed in late September.
The Portland Press Herald reported that the board approved provisionally the creation of a multi-tiered permitting process for mines that would include an obligation for mine operators to provide financial assurances they would be able to cover the cost of closing the mine or taking care of any environmental problems.
The Legislature's Environmental and Natural Resources Committee will now review the rules, which generated numerous challenges and detailed responses by Department of Environmental Protection staff prior to Thursday's vote.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine issued a statement Thursday strongly opposing the BEP's action
"Because metal mining poses such a serious threat to water quality, these rules were opposed 441-2 by Maine scientists, business people, conservation groups, tribal members and other citizens," NRCM said in its statement. "The rules would allow metal mining on state-owned public lands, in floodplains and under Maine's lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal wetlands."
"We still strongly oppose the rules and don't believe they will protect Mainers from having to pay to clean up a major disaster or that they will protect water quality," said Nick Bennett, NRCM's staff scientist.
DEP Deputy Commissioner Melanie Loyzim told the PPH the proposed rules are a "comprehensive, robust set of environmental protection standards" that "address many of the concerns that have been raised."
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