April 2, 2010

Environmentalists Blast Obama Mining Reversal

Obama Signals Support for Giving Mining Companies Access to Public Land to Dump Toxic Waste, Fueling Criticism

CBS News

(AP) The same week President Barack Obama riled environmentalists with plans for offshore oil drilling, he faces criticism for signaling he will support a Bush-era policy criticized as giving mining companies unlimited access to public lands to dump toxic waste.

The administration asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss a challenge by environmental and community groups to a rule that lifted a restriction on how much public land companies can use. The groups are also challenging a 2008 rule that says companies aren't required to pay the going rate to use the land.

Environmentalists said the administration's decision conflicts with its pledge to overhaul the nearly 140-year-old law regulating the mining of gold, silver and other hard-rock minerals on public land.

"The Obama administration can't have it both ways," said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group in Washington. "Either it stands by its earlier commitment to bringing mining law into the 21st Century, or it continues to allow the industry to dump unlimited toxic waste on public land at the expense of taxpayers and the environment."

National Mining Association spokeswoman Carol Raulston said Friday that her group is pleased with the Obama administration's decision to support the Bush policy.