Nationwide Permit 12 Greenlights Environmental Destruction

GREAT FALLS, Mont.— Environmental groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a nationwide permit that allows streamlined development of oil and gas pipelines through wetlands, streams and rivers. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Montana by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Waterkeeper Alliance and Montana Environmental Information Center.

In reissuing Nationwide Permit 12, during the final days of the Trump administration, the Corps failed to analyze the environmental impacts of pipelines, including from oil spills and the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of waterways relied on by people and endangered wildlife.

While the Biden administration has called for a review of the Nationwide Permits — consistent with its Jan. 20 Executive Order “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” — it allowed the new iteration of Nationwide Permit 12 to become effective before any changes could be made to ensure that communities, wildlife and waterways are protected.

The lawsuit claims that despite a federal court previously ruling that the Endangered Species Act requires consultation with expert wildlife agencies to ensure listed species are not jeopardized by the Corps’ permit program, the Corps failed to consider the impacts of Nationwide Permit 12 on imperiled species. It further asserts that the Corps is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for failing to fully consider the significant environmental impacts of pipeline construction and operation in waters and wetlands.

The Clean Water Act only allows Nationwide Permits to be used for activities with minimal impacts, yet the Corps has authorized massive oil and gas pipelines to use this streamlined permit instead of requiring individual permits. That allows controversial pipelines — including Dakota Access and Keystone XL — to avoid public scrutiny and a more complete analysis of their impacts.

“The Corps’ failure to comply with bedrock environmental laws requires immediate attention,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no justification for allowing destructive and dangerous pipelines to avoid rigorous environmental review, and it’s disheartening to see the Corps continue to flout its obligation to protect our nation’s waters and imperiled wildlife.”

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