EPA’s proposal defies Congressional intent, undermines the Clean Water Act under pretense of “cooperative federalism”
Aug 09 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed rule that would change the permit certification process under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and curtail states’ power to review, modify or deny permits for federal energy projects.
“As a recovering governor, and as one of the millions of people who enjoy Delaware’s five-star beaches and support the clean water-dependent small businesses throughout our coastal communities, I would ask every Delawarean to imagine the prospect of a major project being constructed in our state despite our state’s objections. It is particularly troubling to envision now, at the height of summer, that a project could be pushed through that threatens our thriving coastline and compromises our state’s $3.3 billion tourism economy.
“Actually, this is not exactly a hypothetical scenario. Our state did live that nightmare in the 1960s. Like so many states, Delaware struggled and barely succeeded to stop an energy project from tearing through the marshland along the Delaware Bay. The proposed rule announced by EPA could make that nightmare a reality once again today.
“When Congress established section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states became empowered to review and challenge federal permits for energy and other projects that could adversely affect the quality of a state’s waters, wetlands and other resources that ensure healthy streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. EPA’s proposed rule defies the intention of Congress. What’s more, the concept of ‘cooperative federalism’ is merely a pretense in this administration. This rule would render states virtually powerless—by limiting the time and scope of their review of potentially dangerous projects—to protect vital water resources and the quality of their drinking water.
“President Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler like to tout that this administration has made ‘crystal clear water’ a top priority. But the only thing today’s proposed rule makes crystal clear is that this administration prioritizes the false promises of ‘energy dominance’ over clean water, even if it means defying the intention of Congress, undermining the Clean Water Act and abandoning all pretense of cooperative federalism to do so.”
In June, EPA released guidance for President Trump’s executive order that – in clear violation of Congressional intent – undermines states’ rights to review applications for CWA Section 401 water quality certifications.
Earlier this year, Senator Carper was joined by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in sending a letter to EPA demanding information related to the agency’s efforts to modify the process for state review of applications. The senators have not yet received a response to this letter.