NRDC, the New York City-based green giant ($232.3 million assets in 2010), sent its minions abroad in hopes of destroying America's best strategic mineral reserve, one of the largest known ore bodies of copper on the planet: Alaska's Pebble Mine deposit.
The Pebble Partnership (between Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals) has invested more than $400 million to make Pebble -- still in the pre-permit stage -- the most environmentally friendly mine in history. The Partnership will spend several billion dollars and create about 2,000 jobs for mine construction, plus a thousand skilled mining jobs over the life of the mine. No plan has yet been released, which gives the opposition a free hand at make-believe, fear-mongering descriptions of what to expect.
Last Thursday in London, NRDC spoke at the stockholder meetings of Anglo American and Rio Tinto (a minority owner of Northern Dynasty), the two firms backing the mine. NRDC paid for full-page protest ads in London's Financial Times and flew in a contingent of opponents to attend meetings with major banks thought to be financing the project.
Dozens of Big Green groups are cooperating in a classic "anti-corporate campaign," an old labor organizing tactic of hitting open-shop companies that refused to unionize. The tactic involves attacks on banks and suppliers rather than the actual target companies. It includes sidewalk protests, petition campaigns and wildly overstated newspaper ads, all claiming that the bank or supplier supported horrific (and mostly imaginary) wrongdoing by the target company.
Numerous green groups have signed on to this by-the-book effort. And NRDC, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy and Earthworks are effectively using the scare tactics and rhetoric of the anti-Pebble campaign as a major component of their own sophisticated fundraising campaigns.
A new wrinkle is that Big Green's anti-corporate organizers are being joined by wealthy sports fishermen, who are spending millions to protect their personal private playground near the deposit site.
Now, these groups have come together to demand the Environmental Protection Agency expand its reach under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to deny permits for Pebble before any permit has been applied for. This unprecedented power grab from the EPA would eliminate local and state authorities from having any say in the permitting process and gut the process established under the National Environmental Policy Act -- passed by the environmentalists themselves. It would chill future investments not just in mining projects but also in the estimated $200 billion yearly investments in projects relying on 404(c) permits.
Alaska's attorney general sent a strongly worded letter last month questioning the EPA's legal authority to pre-emptively deny a permit on state land designated for mining, but the agency is nonetheless moving forward with a broad watershed assessment of the area -- a study the state argues the EPA has no authority to conduct. It will be released in coming weeks and is being heralded by Big Green as a precursor to the EPA issuing a blanket permit denial. This unprecedented action would give environmentalist activists a new tool that enables them to kill almost any project anywhere.
If President Obama allows his EPA to make this brazen power grab, it will have devastating effects on the American economy. It will also tell us a lot about who's really running the country.
Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.