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EPA’s Rare ‘Veto’ Power Used Most Under Reagan

The EPA has only used its Section 404(c) “veto” authority 13 times; twice in the 21st century. The power was exercised most frequently during the Reagan administration. Here are some highlights of proposals regulators blocked:

Jan. 19, 1981: The city of North Miami proposed a public recreation site with golf courses, tennis courts and a clubhouse next to Biscayne Bay. After filing the original permit application, the city modified the proposal so that garbage would be used as a fill.

June 15, 1984: The EPA’s concerns about a plan to fill 25 acres of wetlands in Mobile, Ala., for a proposed waste recycling storage facility compelled Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus to exercise his veto authority after the Army Corps of Engineers said it intended to grant the permit.

March 21, 1988: The agency denied a developer’s petition to build a shopping mall over an Attleboro, Mass., swamp after finding that it did not adequately consider less environmentally intrusive alternatives.

Aug. 31, 2008: The EPA under the George W. Bush administration found that a proposed Army Corps pumping project to mitigate flooding concerns in Mississippi would “dramatically alter” the hydrology of the Yazoo Backwater Area, which contains more than 150,000 acres of wetlands.

Jan. 13, 2011: For the first time, the EPA exercised its veto authority retroactively, revoking a permit for a West Virginia mountaintop mining project. Environmentalists and local residents feared that the mining technique, which involves blasting through mountain terrain to access underground coal seams, would pose a pollution hazard to Appalachian waterways. A district court set aside the EPA determination in March 2012, though an appeals court upheld the agency action in April 2013.

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