Not content with backdooring the unequivocally unpopular cap-and-trade legislation through regulating carbon emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has looked to further cripple American energy producers, manufacturers, and businesses by blanketing the industries in bureaucratic uncertainty. Last Thursday, the EPA revoked a permit it issued more than three years ago for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan Country, West Virginia citing the Clean Water Act
Mingo Logan, a subsidiary of Arch Coal, obtained the permit in 2007 after a decade of review and costly analysis determined the project to be in accordance with the CWA. Since obtaining the permit in ‘07, Mingo Logan invested $250 million in the project and hired 250 workers to begin construction and mining. The EPA ruling has brought the Spruce Mine to a standstill and will in all likelihood scuttle the project and the workers it employed.
Employers are taking notice. Businesses, manufacturers, public works agencies, and energy producers are wondering if they could be the EPA’s next target. The threat of legal fees and rescinded building permits is enough to keep businesses on the sidelines deterring investment until the fog clears.
Echoing this sentiment, West Virginia’s newly elected Senator Joe Manchin, said that the “EPA decision is not just fundamentally wrong, it is an unprecedented act by the federal government that will cost our state and our nation even more jobs during the worst recession in this country's history.”
Equally disconcerting is the fact that the EPA has no clear authority to repeal permits once they have been properly vetted and issued. A diverse coalition of businesses, from the National Manufacturers Association to the Home Builders Association, to the United Egg Producers pleaded with the White House to codify the Spruce Mine permit and questioned the legality of the EPA’s move:
“Since the CWA was enacted in 1972, EPA has never revoked a previously issued, valid CWA Section 404 permit. The plain language of Section 404(c) does not authorize EPA to take any action once a permit has been issued. EPA’s threatened action has no legal foundation, is not warranted on the facts and will chill investments and job creation across America.”
Showing a blatant disregard for the rule of law and the separation of powers, there is no telling what the EPA will do next. With Lisa Jackson at the helm, the EPA has become the most antagonistic agency since Democrats’ big night in November of 2008. Amending and rewriting laws, setting climate policy, and overturning decades of precedent were powers Congress never granted the EPA.
Newly invigorated Republicans have proposed a slew of bills that look to handcuff the EPA and return the agency to its original purpose. With these bills likely to pass the House, the Senate will be the Chamber that determines whether or not the EPA is given free reign. This debate is no longer about the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, it is about whom will dictate energy and climate policy in America: the EPA or Congress.