Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Clean Water Act Rollback: Trump's EPA Limits States’ and Tribes’ Rights to Block Pipelines

Politics
Clean Water Act Rollback: Trump's EPA Limits States’ and Tribes’ Rights to Block Pipelines
Workers clean up a crude oil leak from a pipeline in Minnesota in 2002. JOEY MCLEISTER / Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Trump administration has finalized a rule making it harder for states and tribal communities to block pipelines and other infrastructure projects that threaten waterways.


The change concerns Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which essentially gives states and tribes veto power over projects that would hurt their water quality, The Hill explained. The changes, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Monday, give states and tribes a one-year deadline for reviewing projects and narrow the scope of what they can consider to only water issues, The New York Times reported. They may no longer block projects because they would contribute to the climate crisis.

"This is a dangerous mistake," director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Jon Devine said in a statement. "It makes a mockery of this EPA's claimed respect for 'cooperative federalism.'"

Twitter

In recent years, states have used Section 401 to block a number of high profile fossil fuels projects, The Washington Post reported. Last month, New York and New Jersey blocked permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline, which would have carried fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania through both states. New York also blocked the Constitution pipeline that would have also moved gas from Pennsylvania. And Washington state blocked a $680 million coal export facility in 2017.

Climate activists have seen Section 401 as a useful tool for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, NPR explained. But industry groups and the Trump administration have accused states of abusing their veto powers, and President Donald Trump issued an executive order in April 2019 mandating federal agencies ease the completion of energy infrastructure projects, according to The Washington Post.

"Today, we are following through on President Trump's Executive Order to curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that have held our nation's energy infrastructure projects hostage, and to put in place clear guidelines that finally give these projects a path forward," EPA Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler said in a statement reported by The Hill.

Fossil Fuel groups welcomed the change.

"We hope that EPA's action today will help end the abuse of the section 401 permitting process, which has been used to obstruct projects for reasons that had nothing to do with protecting water quality," National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan told NPR.

Lawyer, former EPA employee and Clean Water Act expert Mark Ryan told The Hill that the changes were a major departure that would put states at a disadvantage.

"This changes the balance of power that has existed over the last 40 years from the states to the applicants," he said.

He explained that applicants would be incentivized to run down the clock on states by withholding information. However, he also thought it was unlikely the changes would hold up in court.

"The new rule will be very vulnerable to a legal challenge; the EPA will have a very hard time convincing the Supreme Court that its current interpretation of the Clean Water Act is correct," he said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch.

And a legal challenge looks likely.

"We won't stand idly by as they rip away our authority under the law to preserve water quality," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state has sued the Trump administration 82 times, said in a statement reported by The Washington Post.

A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Did you know that nearly 30% of adults do, or will, suffer from a sleep condition at some point in their life? Anyone who has experienced disruptions in their sleep is familiar with the havoc that it can wreak on your body and mind. Lack of sleep, for one, can lead to anxiety and lethargy in the short-term. In the long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, there are proven natural supplements that can reduce insomnia and improve quality sleep for the better. CBD oil, in particular, has been scientifically proven to promote relaxing and fulfilling sleep. Best of all, CBD is non-addictive, widely available, and affordable for just about everyone to enjoy. For these very reasons, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best CBD oil for sleep. Our goal is to provide objective, transparent information about CBD products so you are an informed buyer.

Read More Show Less
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Sept. 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington comforts Marsha Maus, 75, whose home was destroyed during California's deadly 2018 wildfires, on March 11, 2019 in Agoura Hills, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Governor Jay Inslee

Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.

In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.

Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch