Front Porch Blog

Lisa Jackson: EPA May Use Veto Power More Often on 404 Permits.

We noted recently that Nancy Sutley, President Obama’s Chair for the Council on Environmental Quality, recognized that there are significant impacts from mountaintop removal (you’ve got to start somewhere right?). Sutley also said that stricter oversight of mountaintop removal may or may not result in fewer mountaintop removal projects. Well, EPA chief Lisa Jackson, is now dropping hints that EPA may be stepping up to use their veto power to protect America’s waterways.

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Question: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues more permits for wetlands destruction in Florida than any other state. The EPA has the power under the Clean Water Act to veto those permits, but hasn’t blocked a single permit in Florida since 1988. It has used its veto power nationwide only 12 times since 1972. Now that you’re in charge, will the EPA become more aggressive about using its veto power to protect wetlands — not just in Florida but in places like West Virginia, where the Corps is allowing coal companies to slice the tops off mountains?

Lisa Jackson: That whole process had become a bit toothless. I asked my staff what they did, and they said, “We made our concerns known to the Corps and we didn’t hear back.”

(The corps and the public should know that, instead of just expressing objections, the EPA will once again use its veto power.) We’re likely going to get to the point where we don’t agree and we have to veto. The Corps of Engineers understands when the EPA has concerns, it’s going to raise them. We’re going to do our jobs.

I’ll believe it when I see it, but that is encouraging news. The EPA has initiated their veto authority under section 404(c) provisions of the Clean Water Act very rarely, historically speaking. Recently, they have used veto authority in Appalachia on the Big Branch mine in KY.





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