A couple of U.S. Senators have introduced legislation that would limit the ability of the EPA to preemptively veto the issuance of permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. If approved it might impact the EPA’s actions in regards to the proposed Pebble Mine.
The Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014 was introduced by Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia and David Vitter from Louisiana. It would limit EPA’s role in reviewing Clean Water Act permits by eliminating the ability for the agency to preemptively or retroactively veto a permit under section 404. That section covers dredge and fill permits in wetlands. In a prepared statement, Senator Manchin claimed the EPA has been waging a destructive war against energy production that is costing countless American jobs and investment opportunities. He asserts that it makes common sense to allow companies that already have been granted permits to continue the work they have started. In that same prepared statement, Senator Vitter declared that after seeing the EPA grossly overstep on established permitting procedures in a manner that undermines the rule of law, it is clear that this legislation is necessary. Some observers believe the “Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014” would curtail the EPA’s Clean Water Act 404-C authority over the proposed Pebble Mine and other projects.
Several groups, opposed to development of the Pebble Mine and supportive of the EPA’s efforts to use its 404-C veto authority to stop development of the mine, released statements condemning the legislation introduced by Senator’s Manchin and Vitter. Trout Unlimited ’s Tim Bristol is quoted as saying that these 2 Senators seem much more focused on the needs of foreign mining companies than American sportsmen and hard working-commercial fishermen. Bristol is the Alaska Program Director for Trout Unlimited. Katherine Carscallen with the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association believes the attempt to re-write the Clean Water Act would extend the uncertainty which has hung over the sockeye fishery in Bristol Bay since the proposed Pebble Mine came on the scene a decade ago. Carscallen is the new BB-RSDA Sustainability Director. The regional Native Corporation for the Bristol Bay region is on record opposing development of the Pebble Mine and supporting the decision by the EPA to instigate a 404-C process to veto the issuance of dredge and fill permits that would be needed for a project like the Pebble Mine to go forward. Jason Metrokin is the CEO of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. In a prepared statement he observed that BBNC believes science has shown that the Pebble Mine cannot be developed in Bristol Bay without devastating its salmon, its people, its economy and its culture. The Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.