By John Hugh DeMastri
House Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday to limit the scope of regulations blue states have used to prevent natural gas pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.
The proposed legislation would alter Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), limiting the scope of permits issued by state and tribal governments to projects that would “directly” result in “discharge into any navigable waters.” New York state regulators in 2020 rejected an application for a $1 billion interstate natural gas pipeline under Section 401 in part due to “greenhouse gas” and “climate emissions” that were “inconsistent” with the state’s clean energy goals, according to a letter from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation outlining the decision. (RELATED: House Republicans Propose Bill To Increase Domestic Energy Production)
“In recent years, states, such as Washington, Oregon, and New York, have weaponized Section 401 to deny certification to projects such as a coal export terminal, a natural gas pipeline, and liquefied natural gas export facility for reasons outside Section 401’s scope,” Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a fact sheet accompanying the legislation.
The proposed change to Section 401 is part of Republicans’ broader energy package, known as either H.R. 1 or the Lower Energy Costs Act, which was introduced by House Majority Leader Steve Scalise Tuesday afternoon. While the bill is expected to pass the House by the end of March, it is likely to face stiff resistance in the Senate, according to Politico.
Republicans once again are trying to weaken the #CleanWaterAct and protect polluters at the expense of Americans’ clean water. I spoke on the House floor today today about the need to protect clean water. pic.twitter.com/uXhojCH1YW
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) March 9, 2023
The Trump administration limited Section 401 in 2020, issuing a rule that obligated states and tribal governments to only consider a project’s impact on water quality, as opposed to broader climate change concerns, according to The New York Times. The Biden administration issued a proposed rule in June 2022, set to be finalized in the spring of 2023, that would undo the Trump-era restrictions, according to The Washington Post.
“For 50 years, the Clean Water Act has protected water resources that are essential to thriving communities, vibrant ecosystems, and sustainable economic growth,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a press release accompanying the proposed rule. “EPA’s proposed rule builds on this foundation by empowering states, territories, and Tribes to use Congressionally granted authority to protect precious water resources while supporting much-needed infrastructure projects that create jobs and bolster our economy.”
“You’ve got to have pipelines,” said Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in a March 9 interview with Fox Business’ Larry Kudlow, announcing the bill. “That brings in safety. You talk about these train wrecks. You know, you don’t want to be moving energy on trains, you want to put them in pipelines.”
The White House and the office of Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.