After the catastrophic accident that allowed millions of gallons of toxic wastewater to befoul the Animas River in Colorado, the serious question is why was the Environmental Protection Agency managing this waste in the first place? Rhett Larson, associate professor of law at Arizona State University, writes in the WSJ that mining companies that have the skill and experience to clean up these sites should be doing the work.
Mining companies—such as Freeport McMoRan , BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group—are far better equipped than the EPA to deal with abandoned mines. These companies have access to the best technologies, employ the best and most experienced experts, and can often improve the environment while making these sites economically productive again.
But what mining company would want to risk the liability of being punished for an accident occurring while trying to clean up somebody else’s mess? Mr. Larson offers three reforms that would go a long way to provide market incentives and liability shields to mining companies, which have the most expertise and experience, so they would step up to deal with pollution from abandoned mines without the ominous fear of liability risks. These reforms might help avoid another environmental disaster like the one that just occurred outside of Silverton, Colorado. Read more here.