BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is delaying a proposal to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill.

Newly-sworn-in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the four-month delay announced Friday would give more opportunity for public comment. The rule has been fiercely opposed by mining companies.

It was unveiled by the Obama administration last year under a court order that requires it to be finalized by December 2017.

Environmental groups had sued the government to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

From 2010 to 2014, the EPA spent $1.1 billion on cleanup work at abandoned hard-rock mining and processing sites across the U.S.

Many companies have avoided cleanup costs by declaring bankruptcy.

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