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New EPA rule limits states’ authority to protect their waters

  • New EPA rule limits states’ authority to protect their waters

The EPA issued a new rule last week to reduce the scope of environmental reviews done by states in the context of permitting energy infrastructure projects, informs Phys.org. The states’ reviews will have to focus on water quality; as well, there is a new one-year deadline for states to make a decision.

The rule follows directions from Trump’s administration Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has criticised some states for using their authority under the Clean Water Act to stall infrastructure projects in bureaucracy. He told the press: "Today's action will end this abuse of the Clean Water Act".

States ruled by democrats like Washington and New York have been blamed by republican leaders like North Dakota's senator Kevin Cramer for “disrupting interstate commerce and weaken energy producing states to try to score cheap political points”. The National Mining Association has praised the move to facilitate the permitting process.

Usually states consider different potential impacts when they have to issue a permit for a pipeline, a hydropower plant, or other energy projects: water levels, impact on the aquatic environment as a result of dredging and filling, downstream impacts and climate change, in addition to pollutant concentrations. Opponents warn that by limiting the review to water quality issues, the EPA rule disregards the right of states to protect water bodies and public health.

"This rule is an egregious assault on states' longstanding authority to safeguard the quality of their own waters", said Chesapeake Bay Foundation's vice president for environmental protection and restoration, Lisa Feldt.

Betsy Sutherland, formerly director of science and technology at the EPA’s Office of Water, now retired and member of the Environmental Protection Network, an organization of EPA alumni, thinks the new rule “will severely limit all aspects of the states' ability to maintain healthy and abundant fisheries, drinking water supplies and certainly impact their ability to have safe flood control".

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