House and Senate Lawmakers Call on Biden Administration to Immediately Suspend Clean Water Act Permit for Line 3 Pipeline

August 23, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-05) led a bicameral group of lawmakers today in urging the Biden administration to immediately suspend the Clean Water Act 404 permit for the Line 3 pipeline. Their letter — written to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham — calls for a thorough review of the Trump administration’s faulty permitting process and an environmental impact statement that fully considers the irreversible impact the pipeline will have on the environment, climate change, public health, nearby communities, and Tribal groups. 

“The Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider significant information on the Line 3 tar sands pipeline’s impacts, including the risk of oil spills, climate change impacts, and impacts on Indigenous peoples,” said the lawmakers. “The effects of construction of Line 3 on the land, water, and peoples that it affects are irreversible. We urge you to utilize the authority you have to immediately suspend the 404 permit for Line 3 in order to conduct a full federal EIS prior to any additional construction.”

The lawmakers specifically assert that the Corps did not prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Line 3 despite evidence that the project would have significant impacts. This includes failing to include almost no independent evaluation of the risk of oil spills despite the fact that Line 3’s route crosses more than 225 lakes and rivers including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The lawmakers also urged the Corps to examine how impacts from climate change will further exacerbate the environmental costs of oil spills. Additionally, they called for a full consultation process with Tribes on the effects of Line 3, which was omitted from the 2020 decision to issue the Clean Water Act 404 permit.

The Trump Administration aggressively expanded fossil fuel infrastructure projects and severely limited public scrutiny on those projects. In addition to weakening the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Trump Administration attempted to restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, limit state and tribal authority under the Clean Water Act, and relax regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas wells. 

NEPA requires a comprehensive review of proposed federal projects. For pipeline projects, this includes oil spills, climate risks, and impacts on Tribes. NEPA also requires that the environmental review incorporate the concerns of local communities. If the agency finds that there will be a significant impact, it is then required to conduct the more stringent environmental impact statement (EIS) that carries with it more significant public comment requirements. 

The letter is signed by U.S. Senators Merkley, Blumenthal, Leahy, Markey, Padilla, Sanders, Warren, and Wyden. It is also signed by U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Omar, Bass, Barrigan, Blumenauer, Bowman, Bush, Cleaver, Garcia, Connolly, Espaillat, Huffman, Jones, Khanna, Lee, Leger Fernandez, Maloney, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Raskin, Tlaib, and Wilson. 

The text of the letter is available here

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