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By Emilie Karrick Surrusco
Jody Meche and his family have harvested crawfish from Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin for generations. When he set his first trap in the 1980s, he hauled in an abundant catch. These days, his traps come back full of dead crawfish.
The Army Corps of Engineers disappointed environmental groups and tribal leaders Wednesday by not amending a complex permitting system that expedites oil and gas pipeline approval.
The permit structure, which allowed for the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, gives streamlined permission to pipeline projects intersecting with federally protected waters, rather than subjecting them to individual review for larger spill risk, climate impacts or tribal conflicts.
"I think the nationwide permit system serves a totally legitimate purpose for projects that have truly minor or beneficial actions, but it's become a loophole for big projects with serious impacts, not just to water but to treaty rights and other tribal concerns," Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux, told Politico.
The NoDAPL struggle continues in Cannon Ball, as the remaining protesters dig in for the winter, clean up abandoned camps and warily look toward the upcoming Trump administration.
"This program rubber-stamps major projects like oil pipelines that leak and spill, degrading clean water and cultural sites," said Jared Margolis, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Under the program, those projects proceed without regard for the people, places or wildlife in their paths."
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The Army Corps announced $16.86 million for Delaware River deepening project using a “slush” fund created to circumvent the ban on earmarks passed last year. Environmental and community advocates cried foul—pointing out that the Army Corps chose this path to fund the deepening because it cannot honestly demonstrate the project meets minimum guidelines generally used to make taxpayer funding decisions.
“This is the ugliest example of political manipulation we have ever seen regarding this project—facts, law and good policy have been thrown out the window to serve the political whims of Sens. Casey and Toomey,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “This project is an economic loser, is unnecessary for the ports, and inflicts major environmental and community harm. The project is still hundreds of millions of dollars shy of what is needed to complete it. In short, the project is an embarrassment and waste of money, and we will continue to work to stop it now,” van Rossum said.
"If this were a project worth $16.9 million, the private sector would find the $16.9 million to make it happen. In an era when the country is in major deficit, we should not be spending any taxpayer funds on projects that are known to be a loser, not a project that will choke the Delaware Estuary," said Brady Russell, Eastern Pa. director, Clean Water Action.
“This is blood money. They are taking money from the tax payers to try to destroy our river and estuary. The Delaware deepening will cause irreparable harm to the Delaware River, the aquifer, and the people of South Jersey. Instead of using this money to protect our drinking water and the environment it is being used to destroy it,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is an outrageous abuse of governmental process.”
“The Delaware River deepening is a major threat to the Delaware River, including the fish, shellfish and wildlife that today are needed to provide healthy food and hundreds of millions of dollars a year supporting income and jobs. The Army Corps’ own documents, when investigated by experts, demonstrate that the Delaware River deepening is not needed to support the ports of the region, will not result in increased goods coming to the region, does not meet basic criteria used to guide taxpayer funding decisions, and will likely lose money for every dollar invested in the project. It is stunning that in today’s economic climate an unsubstantiated claim for port jobs is allowed to justify a $300 million dollar expenditure in a project that will harm family supporting river jobs in existence today,” said Delaware Riverkeeper van Rossum. “It is disturbing that false and undocumented claims of jobs are allowed to rob families who depend upon a healthy river and bay for their livelihood, like fishermen and oystermen, simply because they don’t have the same political sway as the industry groups, the army corps and the ports pushing this wasteful and environmentally harmful project forward.”
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Responding to renewed economic claims for deepening the Delaware River, a coalition of taxpayer, community and environmental organizations issued a new independent analysis they say proves once again that the deepening project is an economic loser. The groups issued the analysis and an accompanying report titled Army Corps Cooks the Books Again, in response to a May 2011 analysis issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. (A copy of the reports can be obtained at www.delawareriverkeeper.org.)
“The Army Corps once again tried to mislead Congress and the public about the deepening project—a renewed analysis by Dr. Bob Stearns clearly demonstrates how the Army Corps manipulated their calculations so as to present a false picture for the project,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “The inappropriate calculation was not hard to find. The corps’ own report provides the analysis and numbers. Without deepening, shippers will use the feeder port approach which is far cheaper than trucking, and when all matters are considered, is also cheaper than deepening. The corps’ assessment pretends that without deepening, shippers would use the far more expensive trucking option to get goods to the Philadelphia area markets. But the corps’ own practices and procedures make clear that the shipping alternative is the best alternative and the one that would be selected, thereby supporting and encouraging port jobs without the need for a nearly $300 million, environmentally devastating deepening project.”
According to the new Cooked the Books report, correction of the shipping vs. trucking error alone reduces the benefit-cost ratio for the project to, at best 1.1 (or to below 1 to 1, depending on a shipping diversion assumption)—far below the 1.64 claimed by the Army Corps’ May 2011 report. Supplemental information in the report provided by the coalition of organizations identifies a number of additional errors they say, when included in the calculation, revive the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that deepening would provide less than a dollar of benefit for every $1 of cost paid for by the taxpayers.
“The corps’ economic analysis deserves to be on a Chinese menu under twice-cooked pork. The errors were too obvious and too basic to be a mistake,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “But more importantly, the new report is being used to justify renewed funding for a project that doesn’t meet the federal government’s basic criteria for ensuring tax dollars are invested only in those projects that will generate clear economic value for the country.”
“This new economic analysis makes it clear that the Delaware River Deepening project is an economic looser, which poses substantial environmental risks. The Army Corps needs to take a hard look at its project review practices if projects like this, that don’t meet the corps’ own basic economic standards, are getting the green light,” asserts George Sorvalis, coordinator with the Water Protection Network.
In a report issued in April 2010, the GAO issued its third challenge to the reliability and accuracy of the Army Corps economic claims for deepening (the first GAO report being issued in 2002, the second challenge in the form of Congressional testimony given in 2006). The Army Corps 2011 report was issued in apparent response to the less than glowing GAO 2010 report. The May 2011 Army Corps analysis was its 8th economic analysis of the deepening. “But no one ever learned of this report or got an opportunity to review it until we secured the report through a Freedom of Information Act request,” says van Rossum. “As soon as we received a copy we pursued an independent review of its claims. We think our findings clearly demonstrate why the Army Corps felt the need to keep this newest analysis an apparent secret—because it’s clear that once again they cooked the books, a practice far too common with the Army Corps and one that demeans the entire federal government.”
“With the nation staring into a $15 trillion chasm of debt and Congress looking for deficit reduction, there is no place in the budget for this boondoggle,” says Ellis. “For years, the Delaware River Deepening survived on a steady diet of parochial earmarks. The current earmark moratorium provides Congress the perfect opportunity to stop wasting tax dollars on this economic loser.”
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The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) champions the rights of our communities to a Delaware River and tributary streams that are free-flowing, clean and healthy. Founded in 1988, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is a grassroots advocacy organization that works throughout the four states of the Delaware River watershed. Through independent advocacy, and the use of accurate facts, science and law, DRN works to ensure the rich and healthy future that can only exist with a clean, healthy and free flowing river system. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is unique in that it is founded upon the expectation of personal and community responsibility for river protection, as personified by the Delaware Riverkeeper.
Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is a non-partisan budget watchdog that has fought for fiscal responsibility in Washington for more than 15 years—working with Democrats and Republicans, and groups on the right and the left. TCS is best known for its campaign against spending “earmarks” and as the original whistle-blower on the “Bridge to Nowhere”—a proposed $380 million Alaskan bridge that became an infamous example of federal waste.
Water Protection Network (formerly Corps Reform Network), a coalition of hundreds of organizations from around the country, works to ensure water projects and policies are economically and environmentally sound.
This week, the fight to conserve streams and wetlands and to protect drinking water for tens of millions of Americans shifts decidedly to the U.S. Senate. During debate on the budget bill for the Army Corps of Engineers, Senators could vote on an amendment that would block the Corps from taking any action to restore even limited Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands.
The Izaak Walton League has been fighting all year to restore these lost protections. We took an important step forward this summer when the Corps and U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency proposed some common sense, science-based guidelines that move us closer to our goal.
That progress is at risk right now in the U.S. Senate. Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Dean Heller of Nevada plan to offer an amendment this week that would block the Corps from taking any action to restore even limited protections to streams and wetlands nationwide. And this isn't a temporary ban—it's a permanent prohibition.
Senators need to hear from constituents who hunt, fish, boat and enjoy the outdoors in opposition to this amendment.
Call your U.S. Senators today and urge them to vote against the Barrasso-Heller amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Click here to find your Senator's phone numbers.
Here are talking points:
I am calling from [insert your town or city] to urge Senator [insert last name] to vote against the Barrasso-Heller amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
The amendment directly and permanently blocks efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect water quality and critical habitat for fish and wildlife. It would also undermine the hunting and angling economy in our state and across the country. Hunters and anglers spend more than $86 billion annually. This spending supports local jobs and manufacturing nationally, and depends on clean water, healthy wetlands, and abundant fish and wildlife.
Please vote against the Barrasso-Heller amendment when the Senate considers the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Thank you.
For more information, click here.
As we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we are faced with yet another attempt to slash the regulations that keep our drinking water safe.
This week, our senators will vote on an amendment that would effectively prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from clarifying which waters it can protect under the Clean Water Act.
Act now—tell your senators to oppose this amendment that would threaten the critical protections for our clean water.
Supreme Court decisions on the Clean Water Act have created confusion about the types of waterways that can be protected. Because of that confusion, more than 10,000 wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes (including more than 5,000 sources of public drinking water supplies) were declared unprotected by the Army Corps of Engineers since 2001.
Stopping the Army Corps of Engineers from addressing and clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act will only put more of our critical drinking water resources at risk. Click here to send a message to the Senate today insisting that they reject this dirty amendment.
It’s up to us all to stand up for clean water and stop the assault on our environmental laws.
For more information, click here.