Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, sent a letter on June 3 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler demanding information related to a recent executive order that erodes state powers to review federally-licensed and permitted projects for consistency with state-level clean water rules, as outlined under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

In the letter, the senators also wrote that Section 401 is a vital mechanism long used by states to protect their valuable drinking water supplies, and that this executive order meant to streamline oil and gas pipelines stands in clear violation of congressional intent.

Duckworth is the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife, and Booker serves as the top Democrat on the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight. All three senators launched the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus on Earth Day, April 22.

“As you are aware, long before Congress entrusted states with the primary responsibility for reducing and eliminating pollution in waters within their borders, states already had primary authority to regulate water quality,” wrote the senators. “Congress added Section 401 to the Clean Water Act to ensure that states were sufficiently protecting water quality, while establishing a federal safety net should states fail to do so… After nearly five decades and multiple opportunities to amend the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Congress has never seen the need to significantly revise Section 401(d) — even after the Supreme Court’s 1994 decision explicitly affirming state authority to impose conditions based on state law.”

“Our concern is that your purported deference to states and tribes flies in the face of your mandate to speed up federal permitting, and there is nothing cooperative about robbing states and tribes of the time and careful analyses they require to protect their invaluable water resources,” the senators wrote.

The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2QJqohF.