Pruitt: Pebble Mine Settlement Allows Return To ‘Regular’ EPA Permitting Process
In a legal settlement announced this morning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will drop efforts to preemptively block a proposed mine in southwest Alaska and allow its owner to apply for regulatory permits for the project.
Pebble Partnership’s proposed gold, cooper, and molybdenum mine in Alaska was effectively scuttled in 2014 by EPA’s preemptive veto of the project before the company had filed any permit applications. Critics of EPA’s action have argued the agency perverted the permitting process by stopping a project from moving forward before an application had been submitted. The settlement reached today in a lawsuit Pebble filed against the EPA will give the project the chance to undergo state and federal environmental reviews.
“We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular,’” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.”
In February, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) sent a letter to Pruitt, urging him to rescind the 2014 decision and return to the “regular order of permitting” for all projects. The letter followed several committee hearings, document reviews, interviews, and depositions held over the years about EPA’s actions on the project.
“The Committee has determined that the preemptive action taken for the Pebble Mine Project was unprecedented under the Clean Water Act and was justified by a questionable scientific assessment that relied on predetermined conclusions developed by EPA officials,” Smith wrote in a Feb. 22 letter. Smith said EPA’s preemptive action is a “de facto veto of this specific project” and “establishes a dangerous precedent of expansive federal agency powers.”
“This simple action [of rescinding EPA’s 2014 action] will allow a return to the long-established Clean Water Act permitting process and stop attempts by the EPA to improperly expand its authority,” Smith wrote.