WASHINGTON — An agreement reached between Nevada and the Environmental Protection Agency has kept the Anaconda Copper Mine off a Superfund list, with cleanup now being directed by the state and funded by a private company, officials said Monday.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a National Priorities List Deferral Agreement on Feb. 5 that puts the state in control of expedited cleanup and preparation for reuse of the property.
“Since Governor Sandoval took office and before, the state has worked to develop a long-term plan to clean up the site with a secure source of funding,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner, the governor’s spokeswoman.
Pruitt released a list of potential Superfund sites Monday that no longer includes the Nevada mine.
The list also excludes the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in Texas. Three sites in California, Delaware and Minnesota were targeted by the EPA for immediate and intense cleanup efforts and put on a list for Superfund inclusion.
“We are making tremendous progress expediting sites through the entire Superfund remediation process,” Pruitt said in a statement.
Pruitt said the updated list “reflects our commitment to addressing Superfund sites as quickly and safely as possible.”
The EPA administrator visited the Nevada and Texas sites as part of his effort to make timely decisions for cleanup of the sites and ensure protection of health and the environment for the surrounding communities.
During the Obama administration, the EPA proposed adding the Anaconda Copper Mine, which opened in 1918, to the Superfund National Priorities List to make it eligible for federal remedial funds.
Last year Atlantic Richfield Co. approached Nevada and proposed to fund implementation of a sitewide remedy for the mine. The company bought the mine in 1978.
Sandoval asked EPA in July to defer placing the copper mine on the Superfund list. Sandoval, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Native American tribes and other stakeholders worked with the EPA to keep the site off the national priorities list.
Pruitt granted the request after the EPA determined cleanup efforts meet federal requirements.
In February, Sandoval called the signing of the agreement with the EPA a “landmark day.” He said the state and Atlantic Richfield would work in partnership on the remaining cleanup, which is expected to take another decade.
The Trump administration has proposed cutting spending at the EPA, and funds for the Superfund program.
With cleanup under administration by the state, and Atlantic Richfield pledging to fund the process, state officials see the decision on a deferred listing as a move to secure funding for cleanup of leaching fields at the old mine where chemicals were used to strip copper from rock.
As a result of this public-private partnership, there was no need for the EPA administrator’s office to continue tracking the mine site, Kinner said. The site will remain proposed for the national priority list until cleanup is completed under Nevada Division of Environmental Protection oversight.
Cleanup actions under the Superfund program have historically been slow, expensive and process-laden, according to the state agency.
The mine is located in Lyon County near the town of Yerington.