Today President Donald Trump released an executive order that would limit states’ abilities to protect the health of waterways from pollution from large industrial projects.
Trump’s order calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite rules for implementation of the Clean Water Act, with the aim of speeding up permitting for polluting fossil fuel projects like pipelines and export terminals.
Washington State declined to issue a Clean Water Act permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export facility in 2017, citing the project’s failure to ensure water quality and its significant impacts to the environment and public health. If built, the project would have been the largest coal export terminal in North America and required the removal of ecologically sensitive wetlands to locate 75 acres of uncovered coal piles on the banks of the Columbia River.
The executive order is unlikely to affect past decisions but could imperil local communities’ rights to protect themselves against polluting industry in the future.
“For nearly 50 years, the Clean Water Act has given local communities a voice in decisions that could threaten the health of their waterways, like the massive Millennium Bulk Terminals project proposed for Southwest Washington,” said Regna Merritt, co-director of the Power Past Coal coalition. “This executive order would help the fossil fuel industry ram through unpopular and destructive projects no matter the permanent consequences for water quality and our communities.”
“The Executive Order starts a process that could undermine both state authority and environmental and public health protections,” said Kristen Boyles, Staff Attorney with EarthJustice. “To be clear, there’s no problem with the Clean Water Act that needs to be solved;states and communities have insisted on protecting water quality and environmental health, and President Trump is doing industry’s bidding by tryingto take authority away from states and tribes.”