EPAs unprecedented water permit policy threatens economic recovery warn multiple industries
A new policy proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) poses a threat to thousands of jobs and a sustainable economic recovery, warned a dozen industries in joint comments filed June 4 with the agency. EPA wants to reverse gears on an existing Clean Water Act discharge permit – halting work not only at the coal mine that filed the permit, but also creating an unprecedented threat for other industries from agriculture to home building. Organizations representing these and other industries protested the far-reaching implications of the agency’s unprecedented plans to “withdraw or restrict” an existing permit.Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, one of the organizations responding to EPA’s proposal: “Pulling a valid permit out from under a company destroys not only the basis of that project and the jobs its supports, but also the trust businesses must have for future investments in everything from home building and road construction to farming and ranching – all of which require Clean Water Act permits,”. EPA announced on April 2 its plans to veto the Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine claiming authority under the federal Clean Water Act’s Section 404 provisions for regulating “waters of the United States.”In their comments to EPA, the organizations underscored the harm to jobs and the economy from this first-ever veto of an existing permit for an on-going operation. “Businesses regularly invest millions of dollars on property, technology, personnel and machinery on the assumption that their activities can continue unabated so long as they dutifully comply with the terms of the 404 permit,” they said. The permit had been approved by multiple federal and state environmental agencies and was accompanied by a comprehensive environmental impact statement. The organizations also questioned the legality of EPA’s proposed action, doubting Section 404 gives EPA any authority over existing permits.Among the industries at risk from EPA’s veto of existing water quality permits would be:Home building and real estate: About 2.1 million workers are currently employed in residential construction and another 1.2 million in the buying and selling of real estate and rely on home building that requires water quality permits.Manufacturing: Nearly 12 million workers rely on manufacturing businesses requiring such permits and which, in turn, rely on power generation and other upstream industries that also require water act permits.Agriculture: Tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers across the country routinely require Clean Water Act permits for activities such as building roads across their property or barns for animals.Mining and sand and gravel operations: The 135,000 direct jobs supported by coal and metals mining and the approximately 110,000 additional men and women in the sand and gravel industry are employed by companies that routinely require Section 404 permits to operate new or expanded operations.Road and transportation construction: Public agencies and private firms that serve America’s transportation industry sustain more than 2.2 million jobs. Many transportation projects will become impossible if EPA revokes permits after their approval.