Last week, Washington State junior U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell joined in the Obama administration’s curious war on American jobs. The newest target in Cantwell’s sights is a large proposed project in a sparsely populated corner of Southwest Alaska called the Pebble Mine, an undertaking to unearth rare natural resources that could provide thousands of well-paid jobs and millions in tax revenue to an area that is currently impoverished.

Even before the project has applied for permits, while plans for the Pebble Mine are being worked on and costly studies conducted, Cantwell has already requested the Environmental Protection Administration invoke subsection 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Subsection 404(c) denies the disposal of dredge spoils or fill onto any land potentially draining into the nearby Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers. Though Cantwell purports to have made the request to protect fisheries downstream in Bristol Bay, it seems obvious that her demand is a transparent attempt to halt an industry essential to modern life but now deemed too “dirty” for the sensibilities of today’s environmental activists.

Cantwell’s request amounts to one more example of a lawmaker using the Clean Water Act to impose economic paralysis on any development judged environmentally undesirable, a capricious use of federal power. Because the federal government’s authority has expanded to cover virtually every gallon of running or standing water in America, there is almost no development that cannot be aborted over hypothetical concerns about possible water pollution. The type of stalling action employed here by Cantwell also makes a mockery of the entire environmental review process because it seeks to halt the project before the developers can even present their case.

The real irony is that the Pebble Mine is being designed by its developers to be a showcase of environmentally responsible mining methods, plus the area has rich deposits of copper, gold and other minerals that would make the mine a job creator for decades. To this date, the Pebble Partnership have demonstrated their willingness to respond to the concerns of environmentalists. They acknowledge that it is to their obvious benefit to be the most careful stewards of the environment surrounding the mining operations.

The Pebble Partnership has already invested more than $120 million on environmental and socioeconomic studies associated with the Pebble Mine proposal, research that would be open to the scrutiny of the EPA, the Congress, environmental activists, and the public, if it were not for Cantwell’s move to preempt. They anticipate spending several times that amount by the time the 70 required state and federal permits have been obtained for the project.

This country needs to have a serious conversation over whether the excessive regulatory burdens imposed by the EPA are killing jobs and unduly harming industry. But if Senator Cantwell is successful, it would appear that the conversation is whether industry itself is still allowed in America.


[photo credit: JRockefellerIV]