The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Pruitt Proposes Weakening EPA's Power Over Water Polluters
In a memo dated June 26 but released June 27, Pruitt asked the EPA's Office of Water and Regional Administrators to draft a proposal that would restrict the agency's ability to revoke permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) allowing projects to dispose of dredged or fill material in rivers, streams and other waterways, The Hill reported.
"Today, I am directing the Office of Water to take another step toward returning the agency to its core mission and providing regulatory certainty," Pruitt wrote in the full text of the memo.
If the new proposal becomes policy, it would be the biggest change to how the EPA handles the dredging and filling of streams and waterways under the Clean Water Act in 40 years, according to The Hill.
Specifically, the proposal would block the EPA from preemptively blocking a permit to discharge materials in waterways before the USACE has issued one or revoking a permit issued by the USACE after the fact. It would also require that regional administrators get approval from EPA headquarters before vetoing a permit and that they listen to comments from the public before doing so.
Once a formal draft is ready, the public will have a chance to comment on Pruitt's proposed change, and opponents can attempt to block it in court, according to The Hill.
Former EPA staffer of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Kyla Bennett told The Associated Press that the move would rob the EPA of one of its few means of protecting waterways from mining and other industry.
Instead of protecting waterways, Pruitt's policy change would help those "he's always concerned with: oil and gas and mining," Bennett said. "His buddies who make money."
Indeed, Pruitt justified the change as simplifying the permit process for businesses.
"This long-overdue update to the regulations has the promise of increasing certainty for landowners, investors, businesses and entrepreneurs to make investment decisions while preserving the EPA's authority to restrict discharges of dredge or fill material that will have an unacceptable adverse effect on water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife," Pruitt wrote.
In practice, the EPA has rarely vetoed permits either retroactively or preemptively, though Republicans and industry have argued against their ability to do so. That ability was affirmed in a 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Pruitt's memo cited a case in which the EPA suggested it would use its veto power, under Obama, to preemptively block a permit for the pending Pebble Mine in Alaska after concerns from conservationists and Native American groups that it would harm salmon fisheries and wetlands, according to The Associated Press.
Pruitt started a process to reverse that preemptive decision, but in a surprise move, kept it in place following public outcry.
- EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is slowly strangling his agency - Vox ›
- Pruitt Takes Clean Water Act Decisions Away from Regional EPA ... ›
- Scott Pruitt, Under Fire, Plans to Initiate a Big Environmental Rollback ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
David Gilmour, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd, set a record last week when he auctioned off 126 guitars and raised $21.5 million for ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law group dedicated to fighting the global climate crisis, according to CNN.
The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.
Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.
By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon
The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.
By Tara Lohan
By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.
Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust
By Fran Korten
On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.