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Congressional hearing on Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment underscores importance of due process

The debate over the EPA’s controversial Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment entered another stage this week, with the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Space & Technology, Subcommittee on Oversight holding a hearing on its merits.

Invited to testify before the committee, American Resources Principal Daniel McGroarty outlined the flaws and challenges associated with this precedent-setting and inconsistent pre-emptive review outside the parameters of the established NEPA process.

Said McGroarty:

“Every issue raised to justify the Watershed Study could easily and amply be raised and reviewed within the existing permitting process, with input from experts of all kinds, and community input as well. Put another way, there is no issue I see that requires the construction of a wholly new “pre-permitting process,” with the power to prevent a proposed project from even having the opportunity to be judged within the NEPA process.

“An unprecedented watershed assessment of a hypothetical mine — and even the minor contemplation of a preemptive permit veto — warrants an extremely high bar for the scientific method, the validity of source material, and the impartiality that must be met by this study.”

Citing the inclusion of studies by now-discredited scientists into EPA’s assessment, McGroarty made the case for EPA to conduct an independent and impartial investigation of the use of these studies and called for due process within the framework of the federal permitting process – a position that had previously won the support of the Washington Post’s editorial board and the left-leaning Center for American Progress – both of whom are not known to be mouthpieces for the mining industry.

McGroarty’s call was echoed by Subcommittee on Oversight Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) (a self-proclaimed avid fisherman and hunter), who emphasized that while he was not an advocate for or against the Pebble mine, a “preemptive veto by EPA would set a dangerous precedent, and could have a chilling effect on similar projects throughout the nation.”

Interestingly, near the beginning of the questioning, Doctor Broun asked each witness if there was anything unique in the assessment that would not be addressed in a future environmental impact study. Each person said “no,” even Wayne Nastri (reluctantly), the co-president of E4 Strategic Solutions and Former Regional Administrator of USEPA Region 9, who was testifying on behalf of the anti-Pebble faction.

That no one was able to answer affirmatively, and that Doctor Broun — a self-proclaimed conservationist — was the one defending the NEPA process, speaks to the importance of proceeding with the review within the parameters of the given federal framework.

For written witness remarks and audio/video footage of the hearing, click here.