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 legislative hearing titled, “Hearing to Examine Implementation of Clean Water Act Section 401 and S. 3303, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.”

The hearing featured testimony from CJ Stewart, board director of the National Tribal Energy Association; Brent Booker, secretary and treasurer of the North America’s Building Trades Unions; and Anthony Willardson, executive director of the Western States Water Council.

For more information on witnesses’ testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, the committee will hold a legislative hearing to examine S. 3303, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.

“This bill would improve implementation of section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

“Section 401 of the Clean Water Act empowers states with an important role in protecting water quality within their borders.

“Anyone applying for a federal license or permit must ask the state to certify that resulting discharges into water will not degrade water quality.

“For decades, states have reviewed projects and issued water quality decisions.

“Generally, this process works well.

“States and Washington, DC work together, with clear and defined roles, to solve problems at both the regional and the national level.

“The state makes sure discharges won’t negatively affect water quality.

“The federal government then issues the permit or license with the state’s blessing.

“This shared authority has been a good example of cooperative federalism.

“The vast majority of states have honored this shared responsibility.

“Recently, a few states have hijacked the water quality certification process in order to delay important projects.

“The state of Washington has abused their authority to block the export of coal mined in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Montana.

“The state of Washington has refused to grant a water quality certification for the Millennium Bulk Terminal project.

“The project would enable the export of Western coal to markets in Asia.

“Japan, South Korea, and other countries want and need this American energy.

“By preventing this project from moving forward, Washington state has hurt the economy of the entire region and the nation.

“The delay of the export terminal does not just affect the coal industry.

“The Millennium Bulk Terminal project creates jobs and directly benefit families in Wyoming, Washington, and other Western states.

“That’s why local unions and Cowlitz County, the county where the terminal would be built, support the project.

“Washington state’s refusal to issue the permit is not just bad for our economy; it’s also bad for the environment.

“Wyoming produces the cleanest burning coal in the United States in a sustainable and safe manner.

“The Asian market will continue to use coal even if it can’t get American coal.

“By refusing to allow Wyoming to export its coal, the state of Washington is pushing these Asian markets to use coal from non-American sources. Sources that are not as clean or safe.

“Washington state hired a consultant to evaluate greenhouse gas effects as part of its environmental review process.

“That consultant – hired by the state of Washington - concluded that mining and exporting American coal could reduce total global greenhouse gas emissions by displacing coal mined elsewhere.

“Washington state’s actions infringe on interstate and international commerce.

“That’s why Wyoming, and other states, have joined together to take legal action against Washington state.

“The state of Washington’s obstruction is about politics.

“It has nothing to do with clean water.

“The nine reasons that Washington used to deny certification had nothing to do with water quality.

“The state of Washington’s own environmental impact study for the project found there would be no significant impacts to water quality.

“The state of New York has taken similar steps to block construction of natural gas pipelines.

“America is the world’s number one producer of natural gas.

“Pennsylvania has abundant supplies of this resource but New York is blocking gas pipeline projects which would supply states in New England.

“In January, power plants and utilities in New England had to take the dramatic and drastic step of importing liquefied natural gas from Russia to meet their energy demands.

“It makes no sense for America to import liquefied natural gas from our adversaries, Russia, when we have that resource right here at home.

“Using the Clean Water Act simply to delay important projects was clearly not what Congress had in mind when Congress passed the law.

“That’s why that I, along with Senators Capito, Inhofe, Daines, and Enzi sponsored the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.

“The bill amends section 401 of the Clean Water Act to clarify the appropriate scope of review for a water quality certification.

“It clarifies that these reviews are limited to water quality impacts only.

“It would also put in place procedural guardrails and notice requirements to prevent future abuses.

“Under our legislation, states, when evaluating water quality, can only consider discharges from the federally permitted or licensed activity itself – not from other unrelated sources.

“No longer will a state be able to abuse this authority in order to stop a project from moving forward.

“This bill is commonsense legislation to clarify current law, ensure a more predictable permitting process, and to prevent costly delays.

“Our legislation defends interstate commerce and returns the certification process to what it was originally designed for – to protect the quality of America’s water.”