Trump Restores Science to the EPA on Pebble Mine

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By Jon Decker

Last week, the developers of Alaska's proposed Pebble Mine finally submitted a permit for their long-delayed project to develop a critical source of copper and other minerals.

This decision follows a major policy shift by the Trump administration which forced the EPA to use science and review actual permit applications when evaluating development projects like Pebble Mine.  It sounds like common sense, I know. But under the Obama administration, scientific analysis was routinely cast aside by an EPA that operated as a left-wing political entity rather than a responsible federal agency.

Previously released emails show how Obama's EPA effectively outsourced its rulemaking responsibilities to far-left, agenda-driven environmentalist groups when crafting regulations. Obama's EPA also channeled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to benefit these fringe organizations through grants, and even more money through sue-and-settle schemes.

But out of the countless examples of Obama's EPA flouting actual science in favor of environmental activism, few were as egregious as the Pebble Mine decision. 

In 2014, Obama's EPA announced that a developer would be unable to even apply for a permit to build a mine on the rural pebble deposit in Alaska – a location so remote that it cannot be reached by car.

Obama's EPA preemptively blocked the development group's permit application by using the highly obscure 404(c) section of the Clean Water Act which, as the House Oversight Committee noted in 2015, "was unprecedented and without a legal basis.” To make matters worse, the development group had already spent nearly $750 million to prepare to apply for the proper permits before the Obama administration announced its crackdown on their infrastructure plan.

Thankfully, the Trump administration's EPA, helmed by former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has proven itself dedicated to restoring rigorous, scientific cost/benefit analysis for new development projects. The Trump administration repealed the Obama-era blanket ban on building in this secluded region back in May, and Pebble's developers have now responded by preparing a new permit application to build a scaled-down version of the mine.

As Pebble Mine's developers point out, this project would "bring in additional jobs, investment and economic activity to Alaska." There is no question that the construction of this mine would be a strong testament to the success of Trump's regulatory rollback in creating new American jobs.

Yet even more importantly, the fact that the Trump administration is allowing Pebble's developers to apply for a permit shows that the era of science taking a backseat at the EPA is over. It shows that projects will now be evaluated based on their merits, while weighing all environmental concerns, on a case-by-case basis. That's the way it should be, and that is a Yuge deal.