Republican lawmakers have been largely satisfied with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s work rolling back industry regulations, but they are voicing their disgust with his decision to keep in place a preemptive veto of an Alaskan mine project.
Eighteen GOP congressmen, led by the Western Congressional Caucus, issued a letter on Thursday to Pruitt, urging him to reverse course on his decision to maintain an Obama-era preemptive veto on the Pebble Mine project in southwest Alaska.
“We write to express our concerns with regard to the EPA’s decision not to scrap the Obama Administration’s preemptive veto, also known as the Proposed Determination, for the prospective Pebble Limited Partnership mining project,” the letter began, going into detail as to why the Obama administration was wrong to block proper review of the project. “In a future administration, this dangerous precedent could be utilized as a tyrannical tool … It therefore poses a threat to the integrity of our entire project review system while casting the spectre of a double standard over this particular project.”
Pebble Mine is the name of a proposed mining project in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, an area that contains deposits of gold, porphyry and molybdenum. However, the project was derailed by the previous administration in a move that many critics framed as unlawful and unprecedented. In February 2014, the Obama-led EPA vetoed Pebble’s progress before it received an environmental review from the Army Corps of Engineers — the regular process under the Clean Water Act. Instead of weighing in upon the review, the EPA blocked the proposal by circumventing the entire process.
Pruitt gave indications that he would repeal this veto when he began at the EPA. However, in a surprise move, Pruitt announced on Jan. 26 he would be keeping Proposed Determination in place. The EPA chief ultimately ruled that “any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.” In its determination, the agency added that more than 1 million comments had been submitted to them, mainly in opposition to the project.
Pebble Mine proponents said Pruitt’s moves are tarnishing his reputation as a successful and prolific reformer of the agency he leads.
“The preemptive veto of the Pebble project in Alaska – a holdover of the Obama EPA – is the one glaring blemish staining Administrator Pruitt’s record,” said Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona in a statement issued Thursday. “This kind of power-grab has no place surviving into a Republican administration – not least because we know future Administrations would be glad to abuse such power in even more severe ways.”
Gosar is joined by a number of other Republicans and related association groups in calling for the veto to be struck.
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