In a surprise, but welcome decision, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn a draft proposal to modify Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements for the metals mining sector. The agency said its decision to withdraw the rule, a response to a 2001 U.S. district court case (NMA v. Browner), was based on competing regulatory priorities and available resources. The U.S. National Mining Association (NMA) called the decision to end the rulemaking “a welcome development this year,” eliminating for now a possible regulatory decision to render waste rock ineligible for the de minimis reporting exemption.
The 2001 Browner decision that prompted the proposed rulemaking held that naturally occurring, undisturbed ores are not “manufactured” within the meaning of TRI regulations, nor does the EPA’s definition of “process” properly include “the extraction and beneficiation of naturally occurring, undisturbed ores.” Following the court’s decision clarifying usage of both statutory terms “manufacturing” and “processing,” the EPA was expected to allocate extraction and beneficiation between them. NMA began a comprehensive effort to educate the EPA, the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration on the legal and regulatory implications of the Browner decision, the mining sector's unique circumstances for TRI compliance and the proper context of the industry’s TRI reporting.