Manchin push on pipeline approval recalls 1970s dam project – JP
“It’s just really bad public policy to basically break out a single project and say, ‘You’re going to be exempt,’” James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, said in an interview. “That’s just horrible public policy.”
The only similar example of Congress weighing in to approve a particular project Van Nostrand could recall is the case, famous in environmental circles, of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee.
After Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, an ichthyologist discovered the snail darter – a fish, not the notoriously slow invertebrate – in a river in Tennessee. Two years later, the Interior Department declared the snail darter an endangered species and its home, the Little Tennessee River, a critical habitat. The declaration threatened to thwart the construction of a Tennessee Valley Authority dam Congress funded in 1967.
Faced with evidence erecting the dam could wipe out the fish, the Supreme Court ruled in Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, in a 6-3 vote, that building the dam would violate the Endangered Species Act, affirming a lower court ruling.
Yet in 1979, led by Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., Congress passed an unrelated spending bill that exempted the dam construction from the law, though President Jimmy Carter said he regretted the Tellico portion of the bill.