The EPA Is Annexing Alaska

Need more proof that the Environmental Protection Agency is out of control? Friday they released a draft scientific study of the Bristol Bay watershed and its natural resources, conducted solely to form the basis for preemptively vetoing the Pebble Mine in Alaska. The group that is developing Pebble Mine hasn’t even formally submitted a proposal for permitting. Here’s are some details from the AP on this massive overstep of EPA power:

JUNEAU, Alaska — The possible failure of a dam holding waste from a large-scale mine near the headwaters of one of the world’s premier salmon fisheries in Alaska could wipe out or degrade rivers and streams in the region for decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a draft watershed assessment released Friday.

EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran said there was a fairly low risk of that occurring, however, and the more likely impact would be direct loss of habitat from the mining activity itself.

The report responded to concerns about a large copper-and-gold prospect near the headwaters of Bristol Bay. It is a draft, with a final report that could affect permitting decisions perhaps due by the end of the year after public comment and peer review.

So what does the EPA say about the report?

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has the authority and responsibility to protect the nation’s water and perform scientific studies that enhance the agency’s and the public’s knowledge of water resources. EPA’s focus in the assessment is scientific and technical; the agency has made no judgments about the use of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act and the draft study in no way prejudges future consideration of proposed mining activities.

You mean the authority that the Supreme Court just bitch-slapped you for abusing? Yep, the same…

The groundwork they’re laying implies that any building or project that could potentially impact water can be killed by the EPA without the project ever going through the permitting process, and without input from state, local, or other federal agencies. This in itself is a jobs and economy killer.

An article from Inside the EPA (subscription required) shows that environmentalists couldn’t be happier, and want the EPA to use this plan to kill other projects…

“Environmentalists are now calling on the agency to conduct a similar assessment of mining activity in the Great Lakes region. The Bristol Bay study “is comparable to what we’d like to see” in the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) attorney Michelle Halley said on a May 10 conference call.”

It’s no coincidence that this is happening now, as President Obama is looking for massive bucks from the enviromentalist crowd to get re-elected.

An interesting side note from the report is that the Pebble Mine operation would have no impact on subsistence salmon fishing for the native population.

The Bristol Bay region’s salmon populations also support significant subsistence and recreational sport fisheries. For example, from 1990 to 2010, annual subsistence harvest averaged 140,767 salmon across all species, 78% of which were sockeye (Dye and Schwanke 2009, Salomone et al. 2011).

No subsistence salmon fisheries are documented in the mine footprint.

In summary, it is unlikely that there would be significant loss of salmon subsistence resources related to the mine footprint. Habitat modification in areas downstream of the mine site (Section 5.2) would have related impacts on downstream subsistence users. Some changes to salmon subsistence activities likely would result from development of the transportation corridor. In addition to the actual changes in subsistence resources, based on interviews with Tribal Elders, subsistence use could decrease downstream of the mine footprint, based solely on the perception that the salmon are being affected by the mine operation. Subsistence use could also decrease if fluctuations in downstream water levels reduce access for subsistence activities. Although this assessment is focused on salmon, the non-salmon-related impacts on Alaska Native cultures from routine mine operation are likely to be more significant, including cultural changes resulting from a shift to a market economy, increased access to the area, and direct effects on non-salmon subsistence resources.

The most important sentance of the 339 page report is highlighted above, “this assessment is focused on salmon.” It’s not the assessment of watershed, the effects of the overall ecosystem of the region, it’s simply a report on commercial salmon fishing in the area. Given that, this section is telling…

The effects of mining on fish populations could not be quantified because of the lack of quantitative information concerning salmon, char, and trout populations and their responses. The occurrence of salmonid species in rivers and major streams is generally known, but not their abundances, productivities, or limiting factors. Estimating changes in populations would require population modeling, which requires knowledge of life-stage-specific survival and production as well as knowledge of limiting factors and processes that were not available for this case.

Which is bureaucratic speak for “try as we might we could find or invent a quantifiable effect.”

Update: Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit notes that the Pebble Mine project, when it if finally proposed, will need to go through 67 state and federal agencies as part of the permitting process. That’s a process that the left pretty much defined, but playing by the rules they create has never been a strength of the left…

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Posted by on May 19, 2012.
Filed under EPA.
Kevin founded Wizbang in 2003. He still contributes occasionally and handles all the technical and design work for the site.

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  • Walter_Cronanty

    The EPA has metastasized to the point where it is a threat to the nation.  Good intentions, meet hell.

  • Brucepall

    This land, site of a yet to be built ‘Pebble Mine’, which just so happens to have billions of dollars of precious metals buried beneath it, is private property.

    But the EPA wants the land to stay in its pristine natural state; so instead of buying the property from its owners – as required by that dusty old  5th Amendment of our Constitution (just compensation for the taking) and turning it into a National Park (in perpetuity) – the EPA bureaucracy just tells the owners of the land that they cannot develop their own property – and thus achieve the same results (in the EPA’s eyes) for free.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    Semper Fidelis-

    • jim_m

       The state owns your land and if the EPA has not made it clear that they are the arbiters of when, where and how you are going to use their land then you simply have not been paying attention.

      • Brucepall

        I hear what your snarking Jim_M, but IMHO, as soon as the EPA went beyond their conservation charter, and took on the character of an outta control bureaucracy which bypasses our Constitution – they lost their legitimacy.  

        SF-

    • Michael Santelli

      You’re kidding right?  This exactly what should be done! This is no place for a mine.  The EPA is only doing their job, their protecting the environment and the resource for everyone.  Why should Pebble be allowed to ruin this everyone else?

    • Gary Johnson

      nothing…they are protecting the rights of the people from big monied corporations trying to poison their water supply…just cause you own your own land doesn’t mean you can pour the deadliest substances known to man down your drain…the law will clamp down on you – as they should…that’s why we pay taxes!

  • GarandFan

    Given the Democrats current lackluster campaign fund raising as compared to 2007-2008, I’m sure that if the developers of this mine were to make a ‘substantial contribution’ to Barry’s war chest, all these “distractions” would suddenly go away.

    • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

      “Nice land ya got here.  Be a shame if you couldn’t develop anything on it. You ever think about contributing to Obama’s campaign fund? Oh – hey, is that a Spotted Owl up there?  Ah, I guess not – if there’s a couple more zeros on that check you’re writing…”

  • Gmacr1

    “Say, that sure is a nice business development plan youz got dere, be a shame if somethin wuz to happens to it…”

    Just another nail in the coffin for an agency that has become detrimental instead of benificial.

  • Brucepall

    Jim_M,  

    I have no problem with the individual choice of supporting private organizations like the “Nature Conservancy,” which raises private funds to negotiate with private landowners for ‘just compensation’ to buy environmentally unique or sensitive (private) land. The outcome of such ‘fair price’ negotiations (which both parties agree to), is the property is transferred into conservatorship (in perpetuity) for the benefit of all future generations.

    What I strongly object to is our government’s heavy handed use of its power in the form of the EPA’s bureaucracy to try and achieve involuntary conservation by intimidation, coercion, or policy – (policy as defined by regulations written by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats) – and to do so in my, and the rest of the public’s, name.

    Government bureaucracies are like invasive weeds, they want to grow and get bigger – its in their nature.  So unless we, the public, severely cut them back from time-to-time – they will morph into a totally out-of-control blight (Walter_ Cronanty’s 1st comment was spot on).  
     
    So I believe, its way past time to do some pruning, and start ripping some weeds out by-the-roots.

    SF-

    • jim_m

       If people want to buy up land to create a nature preserve, then that’s their business.  The objection is to the EPA and the Federal government deciding either before you propose doing something with your land that they will object to it regardless of what your plans are (which is this case) or reclassifying your land so that actions you have already taken become illegal (like in the Sackett case).

      The government is out of control and is getting far worse under the current admin.  obama does not respect civil rights, does not understand the constitution and does not care who or how many people he hurts in forcing his ideology on the rest of us.

  • cirby

    We also have the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is following up their stupid raid on Gibson Guitars by threatening to confiscate the instruments of musicians during their upcoming summer music tours.

    Gibson’s owner is a Republican donor – oddly enough, their Democrat-funding competitors haven’t even had a knock on their door for the exact same woods…

  • Guest

    The state owns the land? That wasn’t anywhere in the report above, and the link to the  Sackett’s story suggests landowner rights are at issue here.

    They aren’t?

    Why is the right whining about this? The government owns the land and
    the owners will decide.With the EPA, they’ll side on the side of the
    environment.

    That’s the way you’d expect things to turn.

    I don’t get the outrage.

    • Walter_Cronanty

       Willful, meet ignorance

      • Guest

        So you can’t find anything either…

        The only redeeming value is that Kevin didn’t write “Obama stops Pebble Mine during Socialist takeover as he shreds Constitution” or some other Warner Todd Huston-style over the top nonsense.

        It’s the “Environmental Protection Agency, not the “Corporate Profit Protection Agency. Toady’s take note.

        • Walter_Cronanty

          The State of Alaska owns the land. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_Mine#Location.2C_land_status.2C_and_mineral_rights
          Pebble Mine Corp. owns the mineral rights. Id.  You could have found this out with 10 minutes of research, if you actually cared about the bs you spew.
          Both the state, which owns the land, and Pebble Mine, which owns the mineral rights to the land, oppose the EPA study.  Both say the study could be used by the EPA to prohibit mining activity. 
          The EPA says the probability of failure of facilities using standard engineering practices is 1 in 10,000, and 1 in 1,000,000 if using state of art practices. 
          Those odds are better than the odds of your honest admission of what Obama’s economic policies are doing to this country.  Hell, the odds are better than the odds of you being honest, period.

           

          • jim_m

              You could have found this out with 10 minutes of research, if you actually cared about the bs you spew.

            How many times do I have to tell you that the left does not believe that facts have any relationship to truth. 

          • Walter_Cronanty

             Sorry, I forget easily at my age – maybe it’s wishful thinking

          • jim_m

             No.  On second thought you are right.  It bears pointing out again and again lest anyone forget that much of what the left spews is based not in fact but in ideology.

          • Brucepall

            Mr. Cronanty,

            After my post, I looked it up too – even before you provided the link…because I’m very interested in the matter, and you are right.  

            Wiki though, is like a three year olds version of “fairness”  (just ask any three year old) – if enough participating people agree, its fair (h/t Steyn).  I remember looking at Palin’s Wiki entry way before she was nominated by McCain as his running mate.  The before and after Wiki version was a true eye opener for me – pffft.

            For our resident trolls – they don’t have any thinking, well thought out, or reasoned arguments to make their case in order to persuade or bring others over to their point of view – pffft.

            The internet is a wonderful tool however, and it does enable one to fact-check the hell out of the progressive’s spin – and it brings blogs like Wizbang right into everyone’s home… and that’s a good thing.

            Semper Fidelis-

          • Walter_Cronanty

             BP – Love the internet – what a difference from the days of Walter Cronkite and 3 broadcast tv stations.

    • http://twitter.com/Tomblvd Tom

      Who owns the land and mineral rights?

      • http://twitter.com/Tomblvd Tom

        Never mind, Walter stole my thunder.

        Grumps, the EPA is vastly overstepping its authority, as usual.

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  • theBuckWheat

    I hate to be snarky, but before we worry about the damage that might be caused by the failure yet-to-be-built dam that will constructed to current standards while being continually inspected, maybe the EPA ought to allocate some manpower to the damage to the economy and to the eco system should any of the government’s own dams fail such as those that impound vast amounts of water on the Upper Missouri river. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UKMQ6P46JLLUL3TLLNNMQZDXBY Karl

    “the state is in favor of the mine” is a pretty generalized statement.  The republicans in legislature are generally for.  The community, particularly the communities in the area of the mine, as well as commercial fishing companies are largely against the mine.  

    As far as the EPA “overstepping”….this is exactly what they were created to do.  If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine.  But clean water act, Superfund and SARA give them all the legal, constitutional and ethical authority they need to pump the brakes until all information is in.  Similar to keystone…they aren’t saying no, they are saying “lets make sure this is right”.  

    And the jobs that this mine would produce are minimal, not to mention the majority of long term jobs would be from the countries where the companies that own the mineral rights are headquartered: Canada and England. The development of the mine would produce about 2000 jobs that would last 1-4 years, then most of those folks would be laid off.  And the income the mine produces?  Less than 4% goes back to the USA.  

    So seriously….stop hollering and start thinking.  Knowing how to think is much more valuable than knowing what to think.  

    • Walter_Cronanty

       The income the mine produces, only 4% goes to USA?  Really, what income tax table for workers are you looking at?  Are you talking about an extraction tax/fee?  The problem with the EPA is that it doesn’t have to comply with the 5th Amendment.  When it stops all development of a piece of land, rendering it without value, it doesn’t have to pay just compensation.  Why is that?  What has trumped the 5th Amendment?

      • jim_m

        Regardless of how much of the income goes to the US it is too little unless the Federal Government is getting 100% of it.  The left wants us all to work for the government, take government approved wages so they can sit on their asses and bellyache that they aren’t getting paid enough to continue with their Gay, African American, Women’s Basket Weaving Studies degree.

        • herddog505

          Pretty much.  I find the left’s hand-wringing about how much (or little) money Uncle Sugar will get to be disgusting; it’s as if they look at businesses and citizens as nothing but revenue streams for the national government.

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            Those ‘dreams of their fathers’ aren’t going to be anything but a money sink – they’ll never pay for themselves – and they sure as hell aren’t going to shell out to see  them come into existance.

            Apparently Jerry Brown wants to see California’s high-speed rail line built come hell or high taxes – one comment I saw was amusing. 

            Public transportation other than airlines is sorely needed in CA and if we have fast, reliable, and inexpensive transportation people WILL use it.Besides that, if we wait it will cost MUCH more in the future, and we need jobs NOW.

            What makes them think that HSR will be fast, reliable, or inexpensive is beyond me.

            We the people are an endless cash cow. But the milk’s running dry.

    • McGehee

      Generally, when someone says “the state is in favor” of something, they mean the executive branch of the government. You know, the part that, when a Democrat is in the top office, we’re all told the people working there are neutral and objective and only want what’s best.

      In this case, the staff in the relevant executive departments are in favor of this mine. They’ve already looked at the issues and their position is that it is being done right. If you had ever started thinking you would have realized this.

      But the top guy in the state’s executive branch is in the opposite party to the guy in the federal executive branch, and the federal top guy is running for re-election, and he got elected in part on an anti-jobs agenda, especially in any industry that involves extracting natural resources.

    • herddog505

      KarlAs far as the EPA “overstepping”….this is exactly what they were created to do.  If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine.  But clean water act, Superfund and SARA give them all the legal, constitutional and ethical authority they need to pump the brakes until all information is in.

      Which is, I think, exactly the point: they have tremendous – nearly unlimited – authority.

      I also dispute the phrase “until all information is in”: this presupposes an honest, unbiased process or one that at least has a predefined end.  To the contrary, EPA has demonstrated itself to be a politically-oriented entity that can string out an “approval” process forever because there’s no time limit for it to approve / disapprove a project.  Further, there’s ALWAYS “more information” to be gotten.  “We need another study!” is a great way to stall anything.

      Karl[T]he jobs that this mine would produce are minimal, not to mention the majority of long term jobs would be from the countries where the companies that own the mineral rights are headquartered: Canada and England. The development of the mine would produce about 2000 jobs that would last 1-4 years, then most of those folks would be laid off.

      1.  As one who is employed by a foreign-owned company, the idea that the majority of the jobs created are back in “the Old Country” is ludicrous.  One can’t mine (or manufacture, or sell) from an office in London or Toronto.

      But let’s assume that this is true.  While I would certainly like more jobs to be created in the United States (a good reason to throw Barry and the rest of the democrats out of office, BTW), I think that we’ve learned a sharp lesson in the past few years about just how interdependent various national economies are; if some good jobs are created in Europe, that’s ultimately not a bad thing for us.  (I’d wager that the Germans would LOVE for some good jobs to be created in Greece about now so as to teach that country of loafers that a honest day’s work won’t kill them)

      2.  You are seriously suggesting that we should take a pass on the opportunity to create two THOUSAND jobs just because they are “temp” jobs???  I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people currently on the dole whose jobs skills are getting more stale by the day (and whose bank balances are getting lower) who would LOVE to have a good-paying job even if it lasted for a year.

      By this logic, we should never build a road, a bridge, a factory, or anything else because, once the thing is finished, the jobs “disappear”.  Don’t tell Barry, however: he blew nearly $1T in money that we didn’t have (allegedly) trying to “stimulate” the economy by “creating” just those types of “temp” jobs.

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  • Gary Johnson

    this article is horse manure

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