The EPA Is Ready To Veto A Project…That Doesn’t Yet Exist

Dan McGroarty reports at Forbes:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is mulling a bold regulatory move that could redefine risk for American business. For the first time ever, it is poised to veto not a project, but the idea of a project based on a hypothetical construct that the agency itself has created.

The project that may never be is the Pebble Mine, a multi-metal mineral deposit in southwest Alaska on state land set aside for mining that could yield more than 80 billion pounds of copper, a world record. EPA has jumped ahead of our national permitting process with its own $2.4 million environmental assessment, setting itself up as judge, jury and executioner on the matter before the development company has submitted an actual mining plan.

This is quite an innovative use of the public budget. To be sure, EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to stop or revoke permits for all manner of projects, from agriculture to manufacturing, energy, transportation and resource extraction, anything that touches on water. But does it have the authority to stop a project that doesn’t exist? It’s never tried to – until now.

A study by The Brattle Group found that $220 billion worth of domestic investment projects run on Clean Water Act permits. All in all, a significant chunk of America’s economic development activity. If EPA expands its power to cover hypotheticals – the mere idea of projects – you can bet there will be a chill on investment projects not just in Alaska, but throughout the Lower 48.

With millions in the balance, companies make careful calculations about the risks and benefits of pursuing development projects. Thanks to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, environmental impact is a fundamental concern that must be addressed in the permitting process. If a project presents the possibility of a negative environmental impact, the development company must devise a way to mitigate or offset that harm, for example by relocating wildlife.

On very rare occasions, EPA has vetoed projects at some point during or after this process – never before. Such a move would fundamentally change the way companies assess the risks of even conducting preliminary research on a potential project. Important ideas that can create jobs, drive innovation, and produce value for the economy may never make it off of the drawing board, as EPA’s Sword of Damocles dangles precariously overhead.

Read the entire article…

8 thoughts on “The EPA Is Ready To Veto A Project…That Doesn’t Yet Exist”

  1. I’m thinking about the EPA official who was forced out after a video of a presentation of his was leaked. Everybody was up in arms about him talking about “crucifying” oil companies as an example to others. I thought the most damning thing he said was how he wanted a “way of life act”, but since he didn’t have one, he had to use the environmental laws to the same end.

    Somehow I don’t think he was the only one in the EPA with that attitude.

  2. You know, every time I hear whining about the minimum wage or “living wage” I think of how much more we would all have to spend if companies and individuals could just build, expand, produce, etc without paying through the nose for the privilege of creating the very wealth that the EPA depends upon for its evil existence.

  3. There’s a difference. What is supposed to happen is that you assemble a plan and submit it for approval. The agency then is supposed to evaluate the plan and give approval, rejection, or addditions.

    That’s why I complained that no innovation is possible. If you figure out a way to organize things that will result in no threat whatsoever to the environment (and it works), you should be a shoo-in for approval. However, here, they are saying “no” before you can even open your mouth.

  4. Reminds me of what a friend told me about the National Wildlife Service. The friend is well placed in a national hunting organization. He was intimately involved in the war with NWS over importation of polar bear trophies into the US from Canada some years ago.

    He said that back in the 60s and 70s, there were many hippies who wanted to save the animals. They were going to become veterinarians. Flunked the entrance exam. So they looked around, and found jobs in the NWS. To save the animals. My friend said that the NWS is the most anti-hunting group in the country, even though they were chartered to help hunters and fisherman.

    EPA is surely populated by like-minded hippies.

  5. Fill an agency with environmental activists. Allow the agency to be in bed with environmental activists groups. Add to the mix an administration that believes it has the inherent right to ignore the other two branches of government and you get a regulatory system that will allow only special, approved industries and technologies to go forward. It is fun to listen to the libs wistfully talking about the bygone days of good manufacturing jobs when, in part, the regulatory environment helped them leave. Let’s hope we survive this and have sense enough to correct it in a few years. However, lots of broken eggs to put back together.

  6. I’ve got mixed feelings here. We often carp about regulatory agencies stopping a project when it’s well along. At least this time the only loss would be the cost of the environmental study rather than losing the value of construction that will never be used.
    The current EPA leadership is so watermelon that it will delay or stop anything it can. And the watermelon rots from the head.

  7. This isn’t just judge, jury, and executioner. The EPA is also playing prosecution and defense attornies. This means that no innovative plan or new-fangled idea can even be submitted, much less considered.

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