NMA CEO Says EPA Abuses Authority under Clean Water Act, Urges Congressional Action

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. mining industry leader told a House panel today that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) gross overreach of its regulatory authority has undermined the investment climate for mining and other capital intensive projects. National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn told the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that congressional action is needed to restore EPA’s traditional and limited role in the permit process under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

“EPA has taken unprecedented actions under Section 404 to both retroactively veto a permit for an existing operation, and to preemptively veto a project before a company was afforded the opportunity to apply for a permit,” Quinn said. “By dramatically altering the rules of the game, EPA has greatly harmed the U.S.’s reputation for maintaining a stable rule of law that fosters economic growth.”

Quinn cited evidence from economic experts confirming the significant harm that EPA’s presumed Section 404 authority will have on investment decisions. This alleged authority, said Quinn, upends congressional intent for the Clean Water Act and denies the regulated community the uniformity, consistency and finality that federal permits were designed to convey. “Without any discernable or objective criteria governing EPA’s claimed authority under section 404, a cloud of uncertainty and delay now hangs over any plan to invest and create jobs,” said Quinn.

Quinn dismissed EPA’s assurances that it would use its aggressive permit authority sparingly under unique circumstances by pointing to examples from Alaska to West Virginia in which the agency has destroyed prospects for mining investment. He said published internal agency documents reveal the agency considered using its veto authority well in advance of receiving any public requests to intercede in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. EPA lacked any objective criteria to weigh objections from project opponents, Quinn said.

He urged Congress to heed a recent request from 184 organizations representing a broad cross section of business and industry – including agriculture, construction, housing manufacturing, utilities, energy production and transportation sectors – for legislation that would set clear limits to EPA’s authority and curb its “gross overreach” that has deprived proponents of large, capital investment projects under Section 404 of the certainty they need to invest and grow the economy.

To view a copy of Quinn’s subcommittee testimony, click here.

For more information on EPA’s retroactive and prospective actions to destroy mining investment, see NMA’s website.