Ending EPA Overeach on Pebble Mine

As the incoming administration works its way through the numerous messes and scandals it will clean up in the wake of the Obama presidency, the partisan and lawless disaster at the Environmental Protection Agency deserves a spot at the top of President Trump’s checklist.

The EPA has a longstanding tradition of rogue policymaking. Its preemptive veto of the Pebble Mine, a potentially massive resource development project in Southwest Alaska, is proof positive that the Obama EPA would stop at nothing to implement a radical environmental agenda. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“In February 2014 the EPA took the unprecedented step of issuing a pre-emptive veto, blocking a proposal to create America’s largest copper and gold mine in southwest Alaska. The veto was a message to every developer that EPA would stop any project the environmental left opposed—with no hearing and sham science.”

But this case much is more egregious than the EPA simply rejecting a project that failed to meet its activist goals. Instead, the EPA stepped outside the law to accomplish a political agenda, flexing its regulatory muscles to kill the mine before developers even had a chance to apply for a permit:

“Under the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers has the primary job of evaluating projects. The law gives EPA a secondary role of reviewing a project, and then potentially vetoing one—though only with cause. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s decision to veto before Pebble had even applied for permits or received a Corps review was a first in the Clean Water Act’s history.”

An investigation conducted by Bill Clinton’s former Defense Secretary unmistakably pointed fingers at the EPA for reaching a foregone political conclusion years before a formal veto was issued and executing a strategy that could only lead to one possible outcome. As if to remove any doubt that the EPA was operating with an agenda in mind, the agency was even caught coordinating with environmental activists on a strategy that would allow them to spike the project in the name of questionable science and artificial public outcry:

“A subsequent 346-page investigation (requested by Pebble) by former Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen provided evidence that EPA had decided on its veto as early as 2010. That was well before native tribes (with EPA encouragement) asked the agency to intervene. EPA then built a façade of science and procedure, inventing a phony watershed assessment based on a hypothetical mine to justify its veto.

“Internal agency documents show that EPA staff and officials were also in constant contact with activists who opposed the mine. The Cohen report noted that the evidence raised ‘serious concerns as to whether EPA orchestrated the process to reach a predetermined outcome; had inappropriately close relationships with anti-mine advocates; and was candid about its decision-making process.’”

For years, the EPA has overstepped its bounds and even broken the law in order to legislate an agenda of environmental activism. The first order of business for President Trump and incoming EPA administrator Scott Pruitt should be a fair hearing for a project that could be an economic windfall produce billions of dollars in revenue for local communities, the State of Alaska, and the federal government. A fair hearing for the Pebble Mine would send a clear message that the Trump administration is committed to serious reform at the EPA.