In 2022, the Supreme Court has swept away decades of progress and legal precedent meant to safeguard our environment and our fundamental human rights. One decision you might not have heard about came a few months ago, when the Court overstepped to reinstate a Trump administration rule that threatens our water quality. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to put those protections back in place and restore state and Tribal authority to protect their waterways and wetlands. Tell the EPA to work as quickly as possible to restore our clean water protections.
Section 401 of the Clean Water Act empowers states and Tribes to protect water resources that are essential to public health, ecosystems, and sustainable economies. The provision is critically important because the federal government is not always a friend of clean water. During the Trump years, federal agencies were eager to sign off on fossil fuel projects that would jeopardize water quality. Section 401 gives states and Tribes the legal authority to do their own analysis and reject projects that pose unacceptable risks to their water.
States and Tribes have used Section 401 to prevent projects that would threaten their waterways and aquatic habitats. For example, the state of New York denied the application of the Constitution Pipeline, which would have crossed waterways 251 times, disturbed streams, and destroyed or degraded at least 95 acres of wetlands. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the state’s decision in 2017 and the project’s sponsors ultimately abandoned the pipeline.
In 2017, the Washington Department of Ecology denied a 401 certification for a proposed coal export facility on the banks of the Columbia River. The Millennium Coal Terminal would have been the largest coal shipping terminal in North America, adding more than 1,600 large vessel trips through the Columbia River and harming Tribal fishing access. Washington’s use of Section 401 power was also upheld in court.
The Trump administration’s attempt to drastically limit state and Tribal authority under Section 401 is just one in a long list of Trump gifts to the fossil fuel industry that the Biden administration is working to undo. It’s crucial we show our support to keep the momentum going. Tell the EPA to move swiftly and restore this vital clean water protection.