In a new piece for Forbes, American Resources Policy Network principal Daniel McGroarty discusses the EPA’s apparent readiness to unilaterally expand its powers under the Clean Water Act to pre-emptively veto a promising mining project in Alaska – the Pebble Mine.
As McGroarty argues, if the EPA were to issue a veto based on its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment – a study conducted before any permit requests were filed or plans were submitted, and based entirely on hypotheticals – the agency would set a dangerous precedent with the potential to impact investment projects throughout the United States and across many sectors. It would furthermore undermine existing environmental law, which has helped strike the balance between economic and environmental concerns for more than forty years – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“On very rare occasions, EPA has vetoed projects at some point during or after this process – never before. Such a move would fundamentally change the way companies assess the risks of even conducting preliminary research on a potential project. Important ideas that can create jobs, drive innovation, and produce value for the economy may never make it off of the drawing board, as EPA’s Sword of Damocles dangles precariously overhead.
Environmental law was never meant to be a project killer. The purpose of the National Environmental Policy Act was to strike a balance between economy and environment, to ensure that the forward march of progress didn’t trample nature along the way. An EPA power grab of this magnitude would throw that equation far out of balance.”
McGroarty goes on to point out the hypocrisy of some – not all – environmentalist organizations who have long championed “the balance of power afforded by the National Environmental Policy Act,” but adamantly call for a pre-emptive EPA veto in this particular case.
“Our nation’s mine permitting process is not perfect – it can take up to a decade to navigate the maze of local, state and Federal red tape and get a mine online, which ties us for last place among mining nations with the much poorer, much more hazard-prone Papua New Guinea. But it is the product of a long-established law, carefully designed with checks and balances to ensure a healthy marriage of economy and environment in America. If EPA gives itself the power to veto ideas, you can bet it will be a messy divorce.”
To read the full piece click here.