News Releases from Headquarters›Office of the Administrator (AO)
As printed in the New York Post on August 16, 2019:
The United States is now the top oil and gas producer in the world. Our nation is more energy independent than ever before. At the same time, we continue to improve our air quality. But too many critically important pipelines are still being delayed for years or killed altogether. For President Trump, these delays and blockades are unacceptable.
In April, the president issued an executive order directing his administration to take action to accelerate and promote the construction of pipelines and other important energy infrastructure.
The executive order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states on reviewing and updating the guidance and regulations related to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. This section gives states (and Indian tribes that are treated as states) the authority to review federally approved projects and certify that they comply with applicable state or tribal water-quality standards.
Last week, the EPA carried out the president’s directive, issuing a proposed rule that would modernize the agency’s regulations to help ensure that Section 401 is implemented by states appropriately and in accordance with the Clean Water Act’s plain language.
Our proposal would prevent unnecessary delays by requiring states to consider only water-quality impacts in deciding whether to grant, deny or impose conditions on a pipeline project. The new rule would also require states to provide a specific basis for a denial.
Many states already implement Section 401 as the US Congress intended. Some states, however, don’t. These states have used Section 401 to delay or reject energy projects at the expense of significant regional and national benefits, including increased energy security, energy reliability and job creation. When states pick at issues other than the impact on water quality, they go beyond the scope of the original law.
Take the Empire State. Gov. Andrew Cuomo used Section 401 to veto an important pipeline, known as Constitution, that would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York. The governor’s decision means New Yorkers will become even more dependent on less reliable energy sources.
This summer, some 50,000 New Yorkers lost power during a heat wave. Cuomo blamed the city’s utility. But he didn’t mention that the utility had warned him that natural-gas-pipeline constraints increase the risk of supply disruptions.
These disruptions, including the veto of the Constitution pipeline, which would have supplied fuel to generate electricity, among other uses, impact the reliability of electricity in New York by reducing energy resources to supply the grid.
In its warning later in April, Con Ed noted that denial of the National Grid pipeline would hinder its ability to deliver natural gas to customers in the Big Apple, and that the company may have to put a moratorium on adding new customers.
Cuomo’s blockade isn’t just harming New Yorkers. His unilateral action is threatening the energy independence for all of New England, which would have benefited from the pipeline.
Plus, as The Wall Street Journal noted in a recent editorial, New Yorkers have some of the highest electricity prices in the country. Now, thanks to Gov. Cuomo’s policies that are restricting low-cost energy supply, New Yorkers will be forced to depend on less reliable, more expensive sources of energy, forcing them to pay even more and get even less.
And without sufficient access to reliable domestic energy sources, regions may be forced to rely on foreign energy sources. In January 2018, a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas from Russia arrived in Boston Harbor during a cold snap. Think about that: Russian natural gas traveling by boat around the world to heat American homes!
Our nation has abundant energy resources available, and American energy resources are extracted, refined and transported in an environmentally conscious manner.
We should be bolstering American energy independence and American jobs — not making ourselves vulnerable by lining the pockets of foreign energy suppliers.
The Clean Water Act wasn’t designed to allow states to drag out decisions for years or use their Section 401 authority to veto projects of national significance when the projects wouldn’t impact water quality. By reining in states, the updated regulations in our proposal will streamline the approval for and construction of energy infrastructure projects that are good for American families, workers and the American economy.
Andrew Wheeler is the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
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Author: Headquarters, Office of the Administrator (AO)