EPA Updates Clean Water Act to Curb State Powers to Deny Permits for Energy Projects

EPA Updates Clean Water Act to Curb State Powers to Deny Permits for Energy Projects

June 2, 2020

Monday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler signed a rule limiting state powers to block energy infrastructure projects. The rule, first proposed in August, would alter Section 401 of the federal water law to ensure a state is only able to block a water permit for a project, if and only if there is direct pollution into state waters. The rule also sets a one-year deadline for states to approve projects.

The move comes as left-leaning states continue to misuse their authority under the U.S. Clean Water Act to halt fossil fuel projects like pipelines, critical to their state’s infrastructure to provide reliable and cheap energy to their constituents.

Power The Future recently wrote a blog on the administrations of both Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey blocking key permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE). The blog cited a Forbes article on the ill-informed decision.

This crucial 23 mile link would have allowed the project to access New York from New Jersey, bringing natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York. Without it, New York is left to import gas from overseas when, as no one even opposing the project has seriously disagreed, it will inevitably run out of domestic natural gas from existing pipeline supplies.

The Section 401 Certification, based on a section of the federal Clean Water Act, is the main lever that Governors have used to block interstate projects previously approved by the key federal agency involved, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

This is just one recent example of eco-left governors abusing the section 401 permitting process to obstruct projects for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting states’ water quality.

EPC Administrator Andrew Wheeler said, “EPA is returning the Clean Water Act certification process under Section 401 to its original purpose, which is to review potential impacts that discharges from federally permitted projects may have on water resources, not to indefinitely delay or block critically important infrastructure.”

We applaud the EPA and the administration’s motion to update the rule, in order to allow energy infrastructure a fair and timely approval process based on the U.S. Clean Water Act’s intended purpose. It’s time for politicians to protect American jobs and industries instead of focusing on pushing their own political agenda.