Wednesday, May 30, 2018

No offsets, no problem as Army Corps OKs wetland projects

The Army Corps of Engineers is greenlighting development in thousands of acres of Alaskan wetlands without requiring companies to offset resource damage, according to an E&E News analysis of five years of Clean Water Act permits. As the permitting agency for development in wetlands, the Army Corps is supposed to require "compensatory mitigation" — restoring or preserving wetlands and streams to offset damage done by projects. That changed in 2015 after Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) convinced officials in the Army Corps' Alaska District to relent on mitigation, helping mining and oil interests by lowering the cost of energy development. After the Murkowski meeting, the agency greenlighted more wetland projects without requiring mitigation. Even when developers themselves proposed mitigation for their projects, the Army Corps often refused. Now, the Army Corps is eschewing offsets as prospects for major developments are on the rise in pristine ecosystems — including the Bristol Bay watershed and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which Congress recently opened to oil and gas drilling. The policy shift at the Army Corps' Alaska District alarms officials at EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service, but their power to intervene is limited...MORE

No comments: