Senate bill would restrict EPA veto power

Republican senators proposed legislation yesterday to restrict EPA's ability to ax or restrict water pollution permits following the derailment of at least two major mining projects.

The "Regulatory Certainty Act" would severely limit the time frame in which EPA could exercise its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to negate or change dredge-and-fill permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Because of overreach by the previous administration, the system has been manipulated to unfairly and arbitrarily block certain projects or even stop them in their tracks after they've already been given the green light," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), lead sponsor of the companion to H.R. 2917 introduced last year (Greenwire, June 16, 2017).

EPA has issued 13 vetoes since 1980, but two separate actions under President Obama rankled industry and conservatives.

In 2011, EPA rejected permits for the Spruce mine, a mountaintop-removal coal operation in West Virginia, several years after the Army Corps approved them.

Three years later, the agency proposed restrictions to protect Alaska salmon fishing hub Bristol Bay from mining before the company behind the massive Pebble project had submitted a permit application.

The new bill would eliminate both pre-emptive and retroactive vetoes, giving EPA only 30 consecutive days to take action between when the Army Corps sends notification of a dredge-and-fill application and a permit is issued.

"The Obama-era EPA abused the regulatory process, using bureaucratic overreach to delay or block previously approved projects," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement.

"This legislation clarifies existing law to promote timely and thorough consideration of 404 permits and eliminate unfair and confusing permitting actions in order to support our domestic energy production."

By:  Dylan Brown
Source: E&E News