Senator Manchin, U.S. Senator for West Virginia Manchin: SEN. MANCHIN TO INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT EPA FROM RETROACTIVELY VETOING PERMITS: 01/20/2011

 

 

Press Release of Senator Manchin

SEN. MANCHIN TO INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT EPA FROM RETROACTIVELY VETOING PERMITS

In letter, Manchin urges Senate colleagues to cosponsor legislation and oppose EPA's unprecedented and irresponsible action that threatens jobs and investments

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has delivered a letter to his Senate colleagues urging them to join with him and cosponsor legislation to oppose last week’s unprecedented regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that threaten jobs and investments in every state.

Sen. Manchin told his fellow lawmakers that he will introduce legislation in the coming weeks to prevent the EPA from retroactively vetoing permits that have already been granted and are in operation. Just last week, the EPA retroactively vetoed a coal mining permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia - even though the mine had received approval after an exhaustive, approximately 10-year regulatory process that included time for an extensive review by the EPA.

“At a time when our nation is struggling to recover from the worst economic recession in history, and with an unemployment rate that has hovered near 10 percent for two years, the precedent this decision sets could not be more dangerous,” Manchin wrote.

“Although the EPA claims no other permits are currently being considered for a retroactive veto, the potential negative effects of this decision are staggering.  Now, every similarly valid Section 404 permit is faced with regulatory limbo and potentially the same after-the-fact reversal. 

Some activists are already urging the EPA to apply this decision to other operations in West Virginia and other states, putting countless more jobs, and our economic recovery, at grave risk.

“In the coming weeks, I intend to pursue legislation to clarify, in no uncertain terms, that the EPA does not have authority under the Clean Water Act to reverse prior approvals of the USACE where a permit has been put through a rigorous regulatory process, including time for thorough review by the EPA for possible negative environmental consequences, and awarded by the USACE prior to any official objections from the EPA.”

The full text of the letter is included below:

On January 13, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the extraordinary step of revoking regulatory approval for the Spruce No. 1 surface mine, a $250 million investment in a coal mining project in Southern West Virginia that would have created approximately 200 good paying jobs with benefits. 

While it is not unusual for the EPA to object to a coal mine permit, this particular decision is shocking in that the EPA, for the first time in more than three decades, has “vetoed” a coal mine permit that had been thoroughly reviewed by the EPA and other regulators, awarded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and put into action by the mining company. 

In fact, the permit was approved by the USACE after nearly 10 years of regulatory review that included the preparation of a multi-million dollar Environmental Impact Statement. The project also went through a rigorous process that included a court challenge and extensive reviews from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the USACE and the EPA -- a process that ended with a valid permit for work that the company put into operation.

In other words, the EPA turned back the clock on the permit, rewrote the rules to change a previous decision it did not agree with, and unilaterally broke the government's promise that jobs could be created and this mine could proceed.

This EPA decision has far-reaching consequences not just for my beloved State of West Virginia, but also for the entire country. 

The type of permit at issue, a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit, is a requirement for commercial investment in several industries including but not limited to mining, agriculture, home building, transportation and energy.  While the EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Section 404 permits it believes will have certain negative impacts on the environment, the agency has never, since this authority was added to the Clean Water Act in 1972, vetoed a mining permit after it had already been issued and placed into operation.

At a time when our nation is struggling to recover from the worst economic recession in history, and with an unemployment rate that has hovered near 10 percent for two years, the precedent this decision sets could not be more dangerous.

Although the EPA claims no other permits are currently being considered for a retroactive veto, the potential negative effects of this decision are staggering.  Now, every similarly valid Section 404 permit is faced with regulatory limbo and potentially the same after-the-fact reversal. 

Some activists are already urging the EPA to
apply this decision to other operations in West Virginia and other states, putting countless more jobs, and our economic recovery, at grave risk.

In the coming weeks, I intend to pursue legislation to clarify, in no uncertain terms, that the EPA does not have authority under the Clean Water Act to reverse prior approvals of the USACE where a permit has been put through a rigorous regulatory process, including time for thorough review by the EPA for possible negative environmental consequences, and awarded by the USACE prior to any official objections from the EPA.

In the meantime, I urge you, as a Member of Congress, to join with me in a bipartisan coalition to cosponsor sound legislation that restricts the EPA from putting jobs at risk by retroactively changing the rules on investments and business.

Thank you for your consideration of this issue. 

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