McCarthy hearing did not allay fears of EPA overreach

Gina McCarthy, who has been nominated to take over as administrator of the EPA, did little during an appearance at the Senate environmental committee last week to allay concerns about the agency’s perceived abuse of the Clean Water Act to shut down major local projects.

“I’m not any more concerned than I was before,” Dan McGroarty, the president of the American Resources Policy Network, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I still hold to my position, and my organization’s position, which is that we don’t want to see Section 404 [of the Clean Water Act] used to stop preemptively a project [from being] reviewed even before there is a project to review.”

“I really do hope that that doesn’t happen under the new administrator,” he added.

McCarthy’s hearing focused primarily on previous EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of an alias email account, and the agency’s use of secret data sets to construct air quality regulations. Environmental issues took a backseat.

However, McGroarty said that Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker was able to specifically ask McCarthy about the EPA’s use of Section 404 permits to block the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Pebble Mine has become a battleground over the limits of EPA power under the Clean Water Act with opponents of the mine urging the agency to use its authority under the law to preemptively veto the mine.

“The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to stop Pebble Mine,” wrote Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, adding that the EPA’s study “provides more than enough information to find with absolute certainty that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed would pose enormous, irreversible harm to the watershed’s natural resources — and the people and wildlife that depend on those resources.”

However, Pebble Mine supporters argue that such a move would be unprecedented as the EPA would be blocking a mining project before any actual plans for the mine had been submitted. If the agency is able to successfully block Pebble before any permits are obtained or plans are submitted, then other projects needing Section 404 permits could also be jeopardized.