Alaska Mining Battle May Have Implications for Oil and Gas
Alaska producers are watching a legal battle between a mine developer and the US Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s move to preempt mining across a 268-sq-mile area of southwest Alaska before the company has defined its project or applied for permits.
Kara Moriarty, director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said her industry is worried about the preemption because it usurps the US Army Corps of Engineers’ role in wetlands permitting under the federal Clean Water Act. “It would set a dangerous precedent,” Moriarty said.
The EPA plans to use its authority under Section 404c of the Clean Water Act to ban a large-scale mine in the Bristol Bay region. The authority is used occasionally to protect parcels of sensitive habitat, typically while a permit is being processed by agencies such as the corps.
Ed Fogels, Alaska’s deputy natural resource commissioner, said the proposal is an unprecedented expansion of the 404c authority because it covers such a large area.
“It covers state and privately owned lands and federal lands, too,” Fogels said. The 404c power is typically used to protect smaller sections of habitat, he said.