Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and co-founders of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, sent a letter Oct. 21 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the agency to reverse course on its proposal that would curtail states’ Clean Water Act Section 401 powers to review, modify or deny permits for federal energy projects.

In the letter, the senators write that these proposed changes undercut state authorities, violate congressional intent, face bipartisan opposition from state regulators and are unnecessary due to states’ longtime responsible and expeditious handling of Section 401 responsibilities.

“In our view, this is a full-throated refutation of the state authority explicitly preserved within the Clean Water Act, and a total abdication of any pretense of cooperative federalism carefully created by Congress,” the senators wrote. “There is no legal basis, no national economic justification, and no definable wrong that would motivate rational policymakers to undertake such a rulemaking.”

Carper is top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Duckworth is top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife and Senator Booker serves as top Democrat on the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight. The three lawmakers recently formed the first-ever Senate Environmental Justice Caucus.

Carper in August responded to EPA’s proposal, saying: “This rule would render states virtually powerless — by limiting the time and scope of their review of potentially dangerous projects — to protect vital water resources and the quality of their drinking water.”

In June, the three senators sent a letter to EPA demanding information related to the agency’s efforts to modify the process for state review of applications.

The letter was submitted as a comment on the proposal’s public docket. The full text of the letter is available at