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'Egregious Handout' to Corporate Polluters as Trump EPA Moves to Accelerate Pipeline Approvals With Attack on Clean Water Act

"This attempted power grab at the expense of state-based clean water oversight is the epitome of hypocrisy."

Protesters call for a stop to the Williams natural gas pipeline during a demonstration held on Centre Street adjacent to City Hall Park in New York City. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Environmentalists on Friday denounced the Trump administration for once again attempting to boost fossil fuel industry profits at the expense of public health after EPA chief Andrew Wheeler proposed a rule to expedite approval of dirty pipeline projects.

The rule, according to the Wall Street Journal, would significantly weaken states' authority to cite Clean Water Act regulations to delay or block pipeline projects.

"The Clean Water Act is responsible for many of the most important improvements in public health and safety for generations. Any effort to strip its power is an affront to common sense and our overall wellbeing."
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement Friday that the Trump administration's proposal "should be seen for what it is: an egregious handout to corporate fossil fuel polluters."

"The Clean Water Act is responsible for many of the most important improvements in public health and safety for generations. Any effort to strip its power is an affront to common sense and our overall wellbeing," said Hauter. "For an administration that claims to prioritize states' rights, this attempted power grab at the expense of state-based clean water oversight is the epitome of hypocrisy."

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said the Trump EPA is "attacking the Clean Water Act because it's more interested in padding corporate polluter profits than ensuring communities have access to safe drinking water."

"This attack on one of our most fundamental clean water protections seeks to severely limit states' ability to protect their water, at a time when climate change, water scarcity, and pollution make access to clean water more important than ever," said Brune. "It's expected that we can't trust the polluting corporations behind these dirty, dangerous projects to protect our water, but it's disastrous that we can’t trust our own president to do so, either."

In an interview with the Journal on Friday, Wheeler—a former coal lobbyist—pointed to New York's yearslong battle over the Williams pipeline as a justification for the new rule, which would carry out an executive order Trump issued in April.

"What we've seen is states using the Clean Water Act…to hold up these projects," said Wheeler, who is expected to discuss the proposed rule on Friday during a National Association of Manufacturers event in South Carolina.

New York lawmakers raised alarm at Trump's attempt to undermine their state's authority when he signed the executive order in April.

"It seems that not a day goes by when President Trump isn't spitting into the wind to try to stop the ongoing transition to a carbon-free future," a coalition of 20 New York state senators said in a statement at the time. "This executive order is more of the same—rewarding his fossil fuel cronies by removing the protections that keep Americans safe. This time he has taken aim at the right of New York state to have a say in what happens to our land and water."

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