The EPA's unprecedented reversal on a permit

Sunday, January 23, 2011; 7:18 PM

In examining the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory authority to revoke a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Jan. 14 news story "Obama administration cracks down on mountaintop mining" described the precedent of 12 such actions under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The article omitted one overridingly critical element: Those actions involved only pending approvals of permits. This is the first time the EPA has revoked a permit it had already approved during the interagency consultative process.

Far beyond the decision's impact on coal mining, the EPA's "ends justify the means" action sends notice to every business sector that federal permits involving environmental impacts can be overturned or revoked. Compounding the significant regulatory uncertainty created by last year's health-care and banking-finance legislation, this unprecedented action will further hamper the Obama administration's efforts to promote economic growth and job creation in the months and years ahead.

John Sitilides, McLean

The writer is a founder of the government relations firm Trilogy Advisors LLC, which has clients with interests before the EPA and other federal agencies.

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