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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • EPA Settlement on Pebble Deposit Positive Development for Due Process Advocates

    A few years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a splash when it took unprecedented early action in an effort to derail the development of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) – the so-called Pebble Deposit in Southwestern Alaska.  In spite of the fact that no permit application or specific plans had been submitted, the agency released a cursory review of the Bristol Bay Watershed in Alaska which sounded the alarm on the possible impact of hypothetical mining – even though previous EPA assertions of such preemptive power had been rebuffed in federal court.

    The EPA’s decision to preemptively veto the project before any application had been filed represented a unilateral expansion of EPA powers under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

    Now, in a course reversal and big victory for due process advocates, the EPA under its new administrator Scott Pruitt and Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals has settled the long-standing dispute, which had culminated in 2014 with a lawsuit over the EPA’s decision to block development of the Pebble Deposit.

    ARPN followers may recall that ARPN consistently argued in favor of due process and warned against effectively allowing the EPA to grant itself ultimate authority to derail any project in the United States that touches on water — with potential impact for projects in every sector of the US economy, from mining to farming, manufacturing, building, energy, and water treatment.

    Announced earlier this month, the settlement now reached affords the Pebble Limited Partnership the opportunity to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act, after which point the EPA could move forward with its Clean Water Act process to “specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”

    Says EPA Chief Pruitt: 

    “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular.’ We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides. The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation. We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

    Whether or not the deposit will ultimately be developed remains to be seen. However, with rigorous environmental review standards and processes already in place, it is encouraging to see that the EPA is returning to merit-based evaluation of actual projects within the given legal and regulatory framework, rather than relying on vague hypotheticals to derail potential mining projects before they even present a mining plan for formal review.

    And while the settlement stands as a win for due process, friends of ARPN will appreciate the bittersweet aspect of a “victory” that ran six years off the clock on the Pebble project, allowing the project to do in 2017 what it had hoped to do in 2011.  During that time, U.S. dependency has deepened for some of the very metals and minerals Pebble might bring to market.  And for the company that optioned the Pebble deposit in 2001, after 16 years, they’ve arrived at the permitting starting line.

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  • Interview: AEMA’s Laura Skaer – The Mining Industry’s Challenges and a Look Ahead

    For the last few months, politics has sucked up much of the oxygen in Washington, DC and around the country.  With the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States behind us, many of us are hopeful that the time has come to finally shift the focus away from politics toward policy.

    Against the backdrop of the change of Administrations, our friend Laura Skaer, Executive Director of the American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA), (formerly Northwest Mining Association), shared her views on the many challenges that have been facing mining industry, as well her organization’s policy priorities going forward, in an interview with Outsider Club.

    According to Skaer, an issue that has and will continue to range high on the agenda is a proposed set of new financial assurance requirements for owners and operators of certain hard rock mining operations. The EPA’s proposal, which was dropped last year, would not only preempt state authority, it would duplicate the responsibilities of other federal agencies, dealing a potentially devastating blow to mining companies, as ARPN Principal Daniel McGroarty outlined in a widely publicized op-ed last summer.

    Meanwhile, this rule was one of numerous policy changes “designed to make it more difficult to access mineral deposits, make permitting more difficult, put more lands off limits and withdraw lands from exploration” under the outgoing Administration.    

    With the changing of the guard, policy makers and administrators may likely take a fresh look at these policies. Legislation to streamline our nation’s onerous permitting system, which already came close to passing only to fizzle when the effort to pass a comprehensive energy bill lost steam towards the end of last year, likely stands a better chance of passing Congress and receiving the president’s signature this year.

    Says Skaer:

    “If Canada can do it in two to three years, to the same environmental and engineering standards that we have in the United States, there’s no reason why the United States can’t get mines permitted in the same amount of time. And we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get that.” 

    Another area in which she believes we may see some changes, revolves around salary reviews for federal employees working in agencies involved in mineral resource policy. These currently do not include performance indicators for an employee’s work on mineral projects – and as Skaer argues:

    “If you’ve got these projects like mining projects or exploration projects that aren’t part of your grade, well, they’re naturally going to fall to the bottom of the pile. That’s one thing we can do that won’t require Congress.”

    In today’s high-tech world, old paradigms have shifted. Irrespective of where you come down on the political spectrum, the mineral resource policy challenges we face as a nation – including our over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals – have only grown over time, and warrant a response.  Thankfully, we can tap into vast mineral riches beneath our own soil. If and how we unlock our mineral resource potential will significantly impact our competitiveness and national security going forward.

    The next few months will see a vigorous debate in Washington on the best ways to revive manufacturing, re-shore American businesses, strengthen our technological competitiveness and restore vital defense capabilities.  At ARPN, we’ll watch closely to see if resource development is recognized as a common root for all of these pressing policy issues.

    To read the full interview with Laura Skaer click here

     

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  • 2016 – A Mixed Bag for Mineral Resource Policy

    It’s that time of the year again.  And as people are gearing up for the New Year, we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months, and want to highlight a few select notable developments of relevance to ARPN followers. From a mineral resource policy perspective, we saw some positive developments [...]
  • The EPA’s Latest Push to Regulate Mining Companies – A Solution in Search of A Problem

    If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its way, the nation’s miners will be saddled with a new regulation that is akin to a solution in search of a problem.  In the process, it would effectively duplicate other federal agencies’ responsibilities, preempt state authority, and potentially cripple an important industry. ARPN President Daniel McGroarty discusses [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty in the Wall Street Journal

    ARPN’s Dan McGroarty reports a worrisome development in the saga of EPA’s unprecedented use of pre-emptive veto power to stop Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine even before a mine plan is presented for review: Anti-mining activists are urging EPA to dust off its veto pen again. And again. Noting a common thread between new pushes for [...]
  • Op-ed: How the EPA Sticks Miners With a Motherlode of Regulation

    The following op-ed by American Resources Principal Dan McGroarty was published in the Wall Street Journal on January 3, 2014. The original text can be found here. How the EPA Sticks Miners With a Motherlode of Regulation The years-long wait for mining permits in the U.S. is the worst in the world. On Dec. 13, [...]
  • Farmers React to EPA’s New Water Rule

    ARPN’s Dan McGroarty wrote earlier this month about EPA’s newly-proposed redefinition of water – warning that: “…the issue isn’t just mining. Couple the expansive new water rule to EPA’s unilateral extension of its “dredge and fill” powers, and there’s no reason that oil and gas projects won’t be next. Ditto major construction, transportation routes, and [...]
  • As EPA Administrator visits Bristol Bay, environmentalists repeat call for preemptive veto

    While Members of Congress spent some time in their home districts last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy traveled to Alaska to discuss the President’s climate action plan and hear arguments from stakeholders in the Bristol Bay area on the proposed Pebble mine. Opponents of the project used the occasion to once more push for a [...]
  • Testimony before U.S. House questions EPA’s latest action on supply of critical materials

    The following post was originally published on InvestorIntel.com on August 16, 2013. It is reprinted with permission below. August 16, 2013 — Tracy Weslosky, Publisher of InvestorIntel interviews Daniel (Dan) McGroarty, Founder and President of Carmot Strategic Consultants in Washington, DC, and Founder and President of the American Resources Policy Network; an expert-led organization focused [...]
  • Dan McGroarty discusses looming EPA power-grab for Forbes

    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 [...]

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