U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

11/19/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/19/2019 10:31

Barrasso: States Have Weaponized Section 401 to Stop Energy Projects From Moving Forward

Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso's remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled 'Hearing on S. 1087, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019, and Other Potential Reforms to Improve Implementation of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act: State Perspectives.'

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Mark Gordon, governor of Wyoming; the Honorable J. Kevin Stitt, governor of Oklahoma; and Laura Watson, senior assistant attorney general and division chief for the Washington state attorney general's office.

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso's remarks:

'We are honored to welcome the governors of the great states of Wyoming and Oklahoma to our committee.

'Governor Gordon and Governor Stitt have joined us to discuss a dangerous trend preventing our nation from reaching full energy independence.

'A group of states are holding critical energy infrastructure projects hostage by abusing a provision in the Clean Water Act.

'Congress created Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to give states a seat at the table before federal permits are issued.

'States deserve that seat at the table.

'The majority of states carry out this role in a responsible way.

'Recently, a select group of states have weaponized Section 401 to stop energy projects from moving forward.

'As the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club said last year: '[Section 401 review] is probably the most effective tool we have to fight these projects.'

'Last year, our committee held a hearing on this important issue.

'Many of the same projects discussed at last year's hearing are still being blocked.

'The Millennium Bulk Terminal Project in Washington state remains in litigation limbo.

'This important project would allow cleaner burning coal from Wyoming, Montana, and other western states to be exported to markets around the world.

'The state of Washington has refused to move forward with certifying the project.

'Washington Governor Jay Inslee denied the certification with prejudice, meaning the project will never receive state approval.

'Governor Inslee's denial was based on a claim that the project was bad for the environment.

'That's just plain wrong.

'The Millennium Bulk Terminal Project would reduce emissions globally.

'Washington state is not preventing Japan and others from burning coal.

'Countries like Japan and others are going to get their coal from somewhere.

'Wyoming and our low sulfur coal is cleaner than coal from other parts of the world.

'Millennium Bulk is a $680 million project.

'If it had been constructed on time, the project would have already generated more than $12.5 billion in economic activity.

'The project would generate thousands of good paying jobs in Washington state.

'Local officials and labor unions strongly support the project and want to see it move forward.

'It would grow our economy and help protect our environment.

'Opposing it makes no sense.

'It is what happens when policy decisions are made based on emotion and not fact.

'But Millennium Bulk is just one example.

'Since last year's committee hearing, more projects have been delayed.

'The state of Oregon denied a 401 certification for a $9.8 billion liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline project.

'This project would export natural gas from the western United States to Asia.

'New York has denied multiple natural gas pipeline certifications.

'Just like with the state of Washington, New York's decisions are hurting the environment.

'The lack of natural gas is causing more homes and businesses to rely on fuel oil.

'A fuel that emits 38% more CO2 than natural gas.

'The Environmental Defense Fund recently noted, '[D]ue to pipeline constraints…, more of the dirtier fuel oils have been and will be burned across the Eastern seaboard …'

'As the Wall Street Journal observed recently, inadequate natural gas pipeline capacity leads to more pollution and higher energy costs for American consumers.

'The Journal writes, 'the average household that uses natural gas for heating this winter will spend $580 compared to $1,501 for heating oil and $1,162 for electricity.'

'That is why I introduced the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019 so that states cannot unfairly block energy projects.

'President Trump has also issued an executive order to update the almost 50 year old regulations.

'Most states are not abusing their Clean Water Act authority.

'States like Wyoming, Oklahoma, and others have found responsible ways to protect the water within their borders while growing their economies.

'The Governors of Wyoming and Oklahoma are here to testify because Section 401 reform is critical to those states.

'Thank you again for joining us today.'

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