February 26, 2013

Senators troubled by EPA's position on Pebble Mine

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

In a letter addressed to Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Senators David Vitter and Roger Wicker write that they believe EPA has decided to grant itself “preemptive veto authority” over Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting decisions.  Section 404, which is generally administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, provides that a permit must be obtained before dredge and fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States.  The Senators’ letter accuses EPA of using a hypothetical scenario outlined in a document known as the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment to lay the groundwork for prohibiting Pebble Mine from receiving Section 404 approval, even before Pebble applies for a permit.  According to Inside EPA, this issue could become a major point of contention in the nominating process for a new EPA chief.

As I noted last summer, there have been voluminous public comments on the Bristol Bay Assessment, including a letter I submitted on behalf of PLF.  PLF’s comments urge EPA to review specific project proposals, take into account all relevant data, and guard against overreach before making any decisions about the future of mining in Bristol Bay.

EPA is planning to release a new version of the Assessment at some point.  The first version was criticized during the peer review process.

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