Bill introduced to Congress aims to cut EPA authority

On January 26, 2011, Alaskan Congressman Don Young introduced H.R. 517, a bill amending the Clean Water Act to eliminate EPA’s authority to deny or restrict the use of disposal sites for dredged or fill material. The legislation was originally introduced in the 111th Congress as H.R. 5992.

Pebble Watch readers may be interested in H.R. 517 because BBNC and Pebble Mine opponents have asked EPA to use its authority, granted under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, to “carefully tailor a prohibition on the discharge of dredged or fill material from the proposed Pebble mine.”

Currently under the Clean Water Act, the United States Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to issue permits for depositing dredged or fill material into an area designated as a disposal site. Section 404(c), however, authorizes EPA to restrict, prohibit, deny or withdraw the use of an area as a disposal site if there will be unacceptable adverse effects on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas.

The bill was presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on January 26 and was then referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. On the same day, West Virginia Representative David McKinley introduced legislation (H.R. 457) to stop EPA from retroactively vetoing existing permits. On February 3, Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia submitted similar legislation called the EPA Fair Play Act (S. 272), which aims to prevent EPA from revoking permits that have already been granted.

Follow the bill’s progress through Congress here, or check back with Pebble Watch for updates.