WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), welcomed CJ Stewart, board director of the National Tribal Energy Association to the committee. Stewart is a member of the Crow Tribe in Montana. Stewart was testifying before the committee at a legislative hearing to “Examine Implementation of Clean Water Act Section 401 and S. 3303, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.”
The bill is sponsored by Barrasso and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Mike Enzi (R-WY). It amends section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The legislation makes several key clarifications to existing law about the appropriate scope of review for a water quality certification. It would also place procedural guardrails and requirements on states as they process requests for certification to prevent future abuses.
Click here to watch Barrasso says Washington state is trying to pick winners and losers.
Barrasso noted that Washington and other states had weaponized section 401 to block coal exports from Wyoming, other states, as well as the tribes. Barrasso said, “My view on this is that the permitting process has now been weaponized to pick winners and losers. The state of Washington is acting in this case like the secretary of State, the secretary of Commerce, the US Trade Representative in trying to determine single handedly what our country is permitted to export. As a result, there are six attorneys general from Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah who are supporting the Millennium Bulk Project in litigation against the state of Washington. The state is preventing important interstate commerce in violation of the Constitution.”
Click here to watch Stewart’s opening testimony.
During the hearing, Stewart emphasized the detrimental effects of Washington state’s abuse of section 401 by blocking the building of the Millennium Bulk Terminal. The terminal would be used to export coal from the Crow Tribe.
“Tribal economies face many obstacles to success, and currently the economy of the Crow Tribe is facing a critical crisis. While we are blessed with untold mineral wealth in oil, coal, and gas on the Crow reservation, regulatory roadblocks and political crisis force us to languish in poverty.
“The tribe currently has an unemployment rate of 70 percent or more. And hopelessness is now starting to cast a shadow where there was once hope for a vibrant and prosperous future. Imagine having a trillion dollars in mineral wealth under your feet and yet your people are starving and destitute before you. It’s a cruel nightmare that would be avoided if not for the Clean Water Act being weaponized against the Crow Tribe resource economy and the Crow Tribe and culture.”
Click here to watch Stewart describe the impacts on the people of the tribe.
Later in the hearing, Stewart continued to describe how the state of Washington’s abuse of section 401 would negatively impact the people of the Crow Tribe.
“Right now we have 70 percent unemployment. Do they care? We care about endangered species but there’s only 14,000 Crows left. I believe we’re endangered as well. When you are talking about three percent of the population in the United States and 60 percent of this nation’s good resources lie in Indian Country. Only 88 percent of those resources have been tapped. Only 12 percent of Native America have been able to tap their resources. There is something wrong with that picture…”
“We shouldn’t be giving the right to these states to break the law and impede other nations from trying to feed their people. I mean that’s wrong. Not only is it breaking the law but it’s morally wrong. We need the ability to establish our jobs. To have jobs.”
Click here to watch Stewart testify that the law says what it says.
Stewart also emphasized that states should not go beyond the letter of the law and honor how it is written.
“We don’t want to continue to have moving goal posts. Water quality certification should mean certification of water quality. Not what the Sierra Club wants or what this club wants or what that club wants. It should mean what it says it’s supposed to mean. As a man, I was always taught that what you say is very precious. You can’t take it back. That falls in line with the integrity of a person and the integrity of the law. When we are allowing different entities, or folks, or states to break the integrity of that law then we are violating the intent. Those ramifications are very detrimental to not only the present generation but generations to come. So it’s something we just can’t play with. We’ve got to be true to our word and water quality certification should say what it says. Plain and simple.”
For more information on Stewart’s testimony and the hearing, click here.