Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) has proposed an amendment #90 to the first House minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2740) that would block funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to finalize an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. The proposed amendment represents the second time federal policymakers have attempted to side-step regular order for consideration of the proposed mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – which is often referred to as the ‘Magna Carta of environmental law’. Previously, the Obama Administration’s EPA took the unprecedented step of issuing a preemptive veto for the project before project sponsors had even submitted an application or otherwise provided details regarding the proposed mine.
Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) has proposed an amendment #90 to the first House minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2740) that would block funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to finalize an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. The proposed amendment represents the second time federal policy makers have attempted to side-step regular order for consideration of the proposed mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - which is often referred to as the 'Magna Carta of environmental law'. Previously, the Obama Administration's EPA took the unprecedented step of issuing a preemptive veto for the project before project sponsors had even submitted an application or otherwise provided details regarding the proposed mine.
What they are saying:
Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): “For all the dramatic displays of affection Democratic members have shown for NEPA, these hypocrites are now trying to block funding to finalize the environmental review of the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska. The Pebble Mine would create thousands of jobs, boost Alaska’s economy and strengthen America’s national security. Members should allow the environmental impact statement for the Pebble Mine to be completed.”
Director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell: “House members should vote ‘no’ on the Huffman amendment to block permitting of the Pebble Mine. Representative Huffman and all too many of his colleagues in Congress continue to treat Alaska as if it were still a federal territory, even though it entered the Union sixty years ago. The proposed Pebble Mine is on land owned by the State of Alaska and is being developed in compliance with all state and federal environmental requirements. The Pebble Mine project will benefit both Alaskans and American consumers and the process should be allowed to move forward without political interference. It’s time to let go of the imperial attitudes that have thwarted Alaskan self-governance and development for decades.”
Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Ben Lieberman:“The law lays out the process by which projects like the Pebble Mine are evaluated, and this process should be allowed to continue. The Pebble Mine contains very large deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum, as well as critical rare earth metals, which are essential resources for the modern economy. The project is too important to Alaskans, and consumers nationwide, to be killed for political reasons before the facts are collected and interested parties are able to provide feedback.”
American Energy Alliance: “Like any other proposed project, the environmental assessment for the Pebble Mine should be allowed to continue according to established regulatory procedures.”
Americans For Tax Reform: This amendment is the part of the ongoing effort from Democrats to completely shut down the Pebble Mine Project…Like all other proposed projects, Pebble Mine should be allowed to continue with the established review process and the final determination of the project should be based upon its environmental impacts, not the desire of radical activists. By attempting to shutdown Pebble Mine’s environmental review, Rep. Huffman has demonstrated he is opposed to mine on ideological grounds rather than facts. ATR stands strongly opposed to the Huffman amendment and urges lawmakers to vote NO should the amendment be offered a vote.
Consumer Energy Alliance: At a time when regulatory transparency and consistency is improving, it is concerning that there are groups continually trying to circumvent established regulatory policies when the outcome does not meet their perceived political objectives. Consistent regulatory policies that allow responsible resource development benefit American families and US businesses while ensuring the protection of our environment. NEPA provides a careful, deliberate process for permitting development of US mineral resources. Haphazard application or modification of these regulations, as envisioned by this amendment, will harm our economy while unnecessarily jeopardizing critical environmental protections for current projects under review and other projects down the road. Due to these concerns, we urge you and your colleagues to oppose this amendment.
National Mining Association (NMA): “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently conducting an EIS for the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. The amendment under consideration would upend four decades of due process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), creating a dangerous precedent that will surely chill investment in any future domestic projects requiring NEPA review.”
American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA) Executive Director Mark Compton: “Rep. Huffman’s appropriations amendment is unwarranted. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearly halfway through the permitting process for the Pebble Project; it would be an egregious waste of federal expenses and time to prevent its completion. This amendment is a blatant attempt to circumvent the well-established NEPA process and deny the public its important role of providing input.”
The Pebble Mine:
The Pebble Mine is a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine in southwestern Alaska, located on State-owned lands dedicated to resource development. Developing the Pebble deposit resource would create as many as 5,000 construction jobs and 3,000 full-time jobs in Alaska, and 16,000 jobs nationally, for the productive life of the mine; contribute as much as $2.5 billion to the U.S. GDP every year; and generate between $165-$213 million in annual taxes and royalties to the State. In addition, the copper deposits alone would provide approximately 33% of the annual U.S. copper needs for many years, allowing the U.S. to reduce its dependence on foreign imports.
History of Federal Overreach:
Developing the Pebble Mine requires the USACE to issue a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), and NEPA requires the USACE to complete an EIS before it can issue such a permit. In February 2014, the Obama Administration EPA announced it was initiating an unprecedented proceeding under CWA Section 404(c) to preemptively veto the Pebble mine, while Pebble sponsors were still in the process of evaluating the financing, scope and appropriate environmental safeguards for the project and before they had even applied for a Section 404 permit. In the wake of subsequent congressional oversight and numerous lawsuits, the Trump Administration EPA initiated the withdrawal of the preemptive veto, and the Pebble Mine sponsors filed a Section 404 permit application with the USACE in December 2017. While the Trump Administration continues to evaluate the 2014 veto decision, the USACE, in February 2019, released a Draft EIS for the Pebble mine for public review and comment, as required by NEPA. At the request of various parties, the public comment period for the DEIS was recently extended by 30 days, from the planned 90 days. Once the public input is received and evaluated, the USACE will move forward to complete a Final EIS.
Ensuring Regular Order Under NEPA:
The Huffman amendment to the pending minibus appropriations bill provides that “none of the funds in this act can be used for the Army Corps of Engineers to finalize the environmental impact statement for the proposed Pebble Mine project.” Congress enacted Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to provide a rigorous, science-based process for comprehensive federal review of proposed natural resources projects like the proposed Pebble Mine. NEPA directs the Corps to identify and evaluate reasonable project alternatives, environmental impacts and potential mitigation measures, through a process informed by comprehensive input from the public, state and federal government agency stakeholders. Upon completion of the NEPA review, and ifthe USACOE issues a CWA permit, EPA retains authority under CWA Section 404(c) to veto the permit if it represents “…unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas)…” Any efforts to preempt NEPA, via veto or USACE funding prohibition, must yield to the fair and long-established procedures implementing the federal law enacted precisely for evaluating projects of the scope and significance of the proposed Pebble Mine.