Coalition Urges EPA to Defer to Alaska Officials Regarding Proposed Mine

Coalition Urges EPA to Defer to Alaska Officials Regarding Proposed Mine
August 7, 2012

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

A coalition of conservative and free-market policy groups has sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to defer to Alaska state officials regarding a proposed mining operation on state land.

The proposed mine promises to be one of the most lucrative in the world, and the Pebble Partnership is taking unprecedented measures to ensure sound environmental stewardship at the mine. EPA has sent signals that it may take the unprecedented step of forbidding the Pebble Partnership from constructing the mine even before the partnership submits required environmental reports and proposals. 

The text of the letter is as follows:

July 19, 2012

The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson:

We understand that a Section 404(c) Clean Water Act action to preempt the possible creation of a mining project in Alaska is being considered by the EPA. We are very concerned about the possible precedent that would be set by vetoing (or conditioning) such a mine or development project by the EPA, particularly in advance of a request for permit.

As this mineral exploration is occurring on state lands available for mining, our concerns are amplified even more. We agree with the Alaska Attorney General who believes that EPA should drop this ill-advised approach that violates states’ rights. 

The US needs copper and we especially need jobs that come from resource development projects that propose significant investments, more than $6 billion in the case of Pebble. Such investment would have far reaching positive economic benefits not just for Alaska, but also for those American companies and workers who would build and supply a potential new strategic minerals mine. 

Premature judgment and action by the EPA is great cause for concern, not just in Alaska, but across the country. Interested stakeholders should be able to gather information about the potential impacts of a mining plan, the potential economic effects, and the true risks of mining development near their communities once an actual plan has been proposed.     

The environmental permitting process is far from perfect, but it is the law of the land. It appears to us that the EPA has taken the side of those petitioning against the mine development in its “Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.” Further, we believe that the hastily assembled watershed study of an area nearly the size Virginia based on mines and activities made-up by the EPA is not an appropriate approach for ANY type of permitting or policy decision. This assessment also appears to be rushed for purely political reasons. This is a reckless approach and we urge you to stop this intrusion on state lands.

As is the case with the EPA’s overreach in attempting to veto water permits for West Virginia’s Spruce Mine (appropriately rejected by the courts), vetoing a fill permit for a potential copper mine before a plan has been filed is another ill-advised power grab by the agency. This agency action would have a dramatic chilling effect on investment in America and show that many third world countries have more regulatory certainty than the U.S. This rush to judgment is stifling proper analysis and debate on mining and this so called assessment.

We the undersigned urge you to stop spending taxpayer money on this petition. It is in the nation’s best economic interests that you abandon this biased watershed assessment, dismiss the 404(c) veto petition, and wait until a permit application is filed for mining or other activities in the region before making any assessments or decisions. 

Signed:

Alaska Policy Forum

American Commitment

Americans for Limited Government 

Americans for Prosperity 

Americans for Tax Reform

Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions 

Caesar Rodney Institute 

Center of the American Experiment 

Competitive Enterprise Institute 

Freedom Action

Freedom Foundation

Georgia Public Policy Foundation

The Heartland Institute

Idaho Freedom Foundation

The John Locke Foundation

Kansas Policy Institute 

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Montana Policy Institute 

National Taxpayers Union

Pelican Institute for Public Policy 

Public Interest Institute 

Rio Grande Foundation

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)