Energy

Trump’s EPA Lifts Obama-Era Legal Block Of US’ Largest Copper Mine

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled a lawsuit the Obama administration leveled against a company’s attempt to produce deposits from the country’s largest mine in Alaska.

EPA and mining firm Pebble Limited Partnership reached a settlement Friday in a legal dispute over the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. Pebble can file Clean Water Permits from the Army Corps of Engineers for the project and the agency will no longer stand in the way.

“The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement Friday. “We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

EPA and the Pebble Partnership asked the court earlier this month for one week to finalize the agreement, ending a lengthy lawsuit filed after the Obama administration preemptively blocked the mine in 2014.

It was only the second time since 1970 that a preemptive veto had been issued by the EPA. The administration was concerned that fill material from the mining companies would impact Bristol, Alaska’s watershed areas.

Republicans and Democrats criticized the decision to continually veto mining attempts.

“I am skeptical of federal overreach from an administration that has already demonstrated it does not understand Alaska’s unique needs,” former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska said about Obama’s preemptive veto.

Environmentalists opposed the Pebble mine at the time of the veto, saying it would pollute streams — the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. The EPA agreed and worked to block the mine.

Obama preemptively blocked the Pebble mine from even applying for a Clean Water Act Section permit at the urging of environmental groups and some Alaskan tribes opposed to mining.

President Donald Trump, for his part, campaigned during the 2016 presidential election on stripping away regulations targeting the mining industry. His move to pave the way for Pebble’s mining permits fulfills aspects of the Republican president’s promises to restore mining jobs.

Pebble supporters championed Pruitt’s move. Nathan Brand, a spokesman for Republican group America Rising, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Trump’s move shows the White House is intent on fighting for “American workers.”

“Today’s Pebble agreement shows that this new Administration is fulfilling their promise to roll back EPA overreach and return the power to the states,” he added.

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