Montana faces the loss of $142 million next year ($1.5 billion over ten years) of federal money for mine cleanups. The Abandoned Mine Lands payments are being cut as part of the President Obama’s 2010 budget. The program is 100 percent federally funded.
No one doubts that the federal government needs to pare its budget. But abandoned mines are undisputable sources of highly toxic pollution such as arsenic, asbestos, lead, and other heavy metals. Nary a soul on earth would dispute that and cleaning them up would be a net plus for the state and the nation, not to mention a good, long term source of heavy equipment jobs. Yet in the administration’s ARRA stimulus bill there was $32 billion allocated to develop a “smart energy grid” and $6 billion to “weatherize modest income homes.” The payback of these will probably not reach break even and the environmental benefits are dubious.
What an irony: the EPA is trying it’s best to regulate the same gas you exhale with every breath while ignoring vast wastelands of heavy metal toxins.