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House Passes Legislation Amending Clean Water Act

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House voted this evening on passage of H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.  This legislation incorporates Congressman Young’s 404 permitting legislation which was introduced last year as a response to Conoco Phillips CD-5 issue on the North Slope, the Kensington Mine outside Juneau, and other such issues where the EPA has gotten in the way of projects that are clearly environmentally sound.  

H.R. 2018 restricts EPA’s ability to veto an Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) section 404 permitting decision under the Clean Water Act section 404(c) unless the State concurs with the veto.  H.R. 2018 allows a State to assume and administer only parts of the 404 permit program.  Under current law, States are required to assume the entire program or none of it.

Congressman Young’s statement for the record:

“Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Mica and Ranking Member Rahall for taking action on the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act.  This bill will restore the balance between the federal government and the states in the administration of the Clean Water Act.

“This bill contains a provision that is crucial to job creation in my state, as well as the entire nation. This bill will limit EPA’s ability to veto dredge and fill permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“I had introduced legislation in both the 111th and 112th Congresses, and requested hearings, to address the EPA’s veto authority over the Corps of Engineers when issuing 404 dredge and fill discharge permits.  I want to thank the Chairman for working with me to accommodate my concerns.

“Section 404 of the Clean Water Act gives authority to the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for discharges of dredged or fill material into navigable waters at specified disposal sites.  

“Permit applicants must meet requirements that have been established by the Corps and the EPA.  In turn, the Corps issues these 404 permits for activities including construction, mining, farming, and other purposes.

“However, the Clean Water Act also gives EPA the authority to overturn the Corps decision if the discharge of materials will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds, fishery areas, wildlife, and recreation areas.  While this language may have had good intentions, the EPA can stop a project simply by withholding the permit.  

“Giving EPA so much authority over construction projects, mining activities, and energy production projects has become a problem in recent years, especially under the Obama Administration.

“This free-for-all veto authority hands the reigns of our economy over to an agency that lacks interest in our economic well being.  The EPA is not concerned with recovering natural resources and creating jobs for the good of the nation.  They are concerned with delaying - and hopefully stopping - all new development in Alaska, and in your states as well.

“To illustrate the power of these permits, I simply point to 2 projects in my state:

“Conoco Phillips’ CD-5 Development is the first step that allows our nation access to the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which stands to produce 2.7 billion barrels of oil.  

“This project has been studied extensively over the last decade and measures have been taken to lessen environmental impacts.  Due to pressure from the EPA, the necessary 404 permit was denied and remains in limbo, as the Corps is considering an appeal.

“Finally, I’ll leave you with a hard fought success story of the Kensington Gold Mine outside of Juneau, Alaska.  The operators of the mine had to take their fight to the Supreme Court to defend the validly issued permit for their tailings facility from challenges by environmental extremists.  

“This operation employed approximately 300 workers during the remaining construction phase, and provides an estimated 370 direct and indirect jobs, including many for the local Alaska Native communities.

“This operation will generate an estimated $25 million in direct and indirect annual payroll, and will be the second largest private employer in Juneau.

“The Kensington Mine is a model project that fully meets economic recovery goals of the American public.

“Had the 404 permit never been issued, and had the Supreme Court not corrected the wrong of the 9th District, these economic benefits would not have been realized.”

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