Photo credit: Brendan Burns.
Link: Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska.
One of the latest political fads involves a mine in Alaska - the EPA is against it after a tertiary analysis, disagreeing with the Army Corps of Engineers, while a bipartisan group of Senators, including one from Alaska, have proposed the Regulatory Fairness Act to keep the EPA from being an unelected legislative superpower, more powerful than the rest of government.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been overruled before. Throughout the 1990s, they wanted to improve the levees in the south and delta of the US and were blocked by environmental lawsuits and the EPA. After Hurricane Katrina hit and some levees failed in New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers was sued, but they were absolved in court. They had not been able to build to their own recommended specifications.
The Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014 would prohibit the EPA from using its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority to restrict permits at "any time" using the belief that a particular development will have an "unacceptable adverse effect" on America's waterways or fisheries. The hunters and fishers lined up against it believe the Pebble Mine gold and copper project would impact the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. As is often the case with environmental issues, the arcane wording and nature of competing federal constituencies have been intentionally designed to allow or block projects based on how the political wind is blowing. In this case, the Army Corps of Engineers, which is the government body that issues dredging and filling permits for mines, did an impact analysis and was willing to issue a federal discharge permit, which will not be possible while this remains under review.
The EPA says it might destroy up to 94 miles of salmon spawning streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds in the Bristol Bay region and in February, the EPA began the 404(c) process to block the project. A bipartisan group of Senators responded with proposed federal legislation that would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to block projects in what they perceive as an arbitrary yet binding scenario.
Lined up against the project are not the usual anti-business groups that raise money blocking business. It is instead groups like the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, all composed of members who know more about the actual environment than Sierra Club or the EPA could ever dream of knowing.
"The legislation these Senators are supporting runs directly counter to one of the top priorities for hunters and anglers from across the U.S.," said Scott Hed, Director of Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska. "We've heard from thousands that Bristol Bay is worth protecting; now is not the time to halt the EPA's thorough process in protecting this sportsman's paradise."
The good news is, lawsuits and their automatic delays mean this is another difficult decision the administration can avoid making.
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