"In other words, the EPA turned back the clock on the permit, rewrote the rules to change a previous decision it did not agree with and unilaterally broke the government's promise that jobs could be created and this mine could proceed,'' he wrote in a letter to fellow senators, urging them to join him in sponsoring the bill.
"Although the EPA claims no other permits are currently being considered for retroactive veto, the potential negative effects of this decision are staggering,'' he said, warning that any company that now has a Section 404 permit is facing "regulatory limbo and potentially the same after-the-fact reversal.''
As Arch envisioned it, the Spruce mine would have buried seven miles of streams, and EPA had previously ruled that would likely harm downstream water quality. Arch has planned to invest $250 million in the project, creating 250 jobs, but the mine has been delayed by lawsuits since it was permitted in 2007.
Mining already under way in a small portion of the Spruce site won't be affected by the EPA ruling, but it prohibits new, large-scale operations in other areas.
The EPA said this is only the 13th time since 1972 that it has used its Clean Water Act veto authority, and the first time it's acted on a previously permitted mine. The agency said last week it reserves that power "for only unacceptable cases'' and used it in 1978 to veto a previously permitted landfill in Miami.
Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said Manchin is "operating in D.C. like he was here in West Virginia, acting on behalf of his campaign contributors.''
The EPA, she said, began in response to big polluters who had been given free rein, "so much so that the Cuyahoga River was on fire and people where dying at Love Canal.''
Unchecked, Stockman said, "they will leave us toxic water, ruined lives and no future.''