Tightened federal water protections won’t slow some projects

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – The Biden administration is moving to tighten oversight of projects that benefitted from Trump-era loosened water protections, but some projects including a controversial Georgia mine will likely be able to escape new scrutiny.

It´s the latest twist in a long-running dispute over the scope of the Clean Water Act, with each new administration aiming to shift which waterways require federal protections. The new guidance aims to diminish the impact of Trump-era environmental rollbacks, which included eliminating federal protections for numerous small streams, wetlands and other waterways.

In a recently posted policy, the Biden administration said many developers would not be able to rely on favorable assessments they got under Trump. But the change will likely allow some projects – including a proposed titanium mine in Georgia – to escape the clampdown.

The new guidance generally does not apply to developers if they were told that none of the waters on their property site were subject to federal oversight under Trump and could advance without a federal permit – even if the same waters are now protected under the tightened rules currently in place.

It´s not clear how many projects could bypass stricter scrutiny. Among them is the 600-acre (243-hectare) Twin Pine Minerals project which would mine titanium and other minerals a few miles outside the Okefenokee Swamp, home to the largest U.S. wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi River. Environmental advocates have long opposed the project, arguing that it threatens hundreds of acres of critical wetlands.

“The Corps´ interpretation of its policy causes an absurd result for sites like Twin Pines,” said Kelly Moser, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center that has fought the project.

The project still needs permits from state regulators.

In December, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official wrote to the Army Corps and Environmental Protection Agency seeking more oversight for Twin Pines. Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, a regional director for the service, expressed concern that the project could affect wetlands that are federally regulated under tighter rules.

Mirando-Castro said the mining project could dry out vegetation and increase the risk of fires, a potential threat to animals such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Twin Pines President Steve Ingle said this week that the mine would have a “negligible effect” on Okefenokee´s water levels. If the company sought to expand the mine, it would need to show that it had acted in an environmentally responsible way and go through a permitting process.

“Protecting the Okefenokee is not just the right thing to… Nokia News – Short Summary.

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