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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler slammed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for holding up natural gas pipelines.

 

The New York governor's decision to veto pipelines is "the worst environmental decision by an elected official in the past year," the EPA administrator said during remarks Tuesday to the Detroit Economic Club.

In fact, the decision is "subjecting New England and New York to further imports of natural gas from overseas," Wheeler said. He added that American natural gas is produced in "a much cleaner and environmentally conscious manner" than gas from Russia, which Wheeler said is where New England is importing from.

Cuomo has repeatedly rejected permits for construction of natural gas pipelines in New York, citing water quality concerns under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

The Trump administration, however, is seeking to rein in states' authority under that section of the law, following criticism from industry, energy states, and Republican lawmakers that blue states were holding up critical infrastructure.

Wheeler appears to share those concerns, saying that most states use their section 401 authority "thoughtfully" but New York was not one of those.

Cuomo "isn't vetoing for water quality reasons. He's vetoing because he doesn't like fossil fuels," Wheeler said.

Wheeler also suggested that importing natural gas from foreign sources harms the climate more than transporting American natural gas in pipelines.

 

"I assure you that Russia is not at all concerned about their methane emissions," Wheeler said, adding that the carbon footprint of transporting gas by ship is large.

The EPA is now reviewing comments on its proposal to limit states' use of section 401, which is sure to draw fire from blue- state attorneys general.

Democratic lawmakers have also cried foul, calling the proposal an assault on states' rights.

"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," Senators Tom Carper of Delaware, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, wrote in a letter to the EPA on Monday.

"There is no legal basis, no national economic justification, and no definable wrong that would motivate rational policymakers to undertake such a rulemaking," the senators added. "It is just wrong."

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