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Citizen’s Guide To Using The Clean Water Act To Kill Pipelines

Please Steal This Campaign

No more FERC-ing Off

Ken Lockwoood Gorge - running warm on June 1, 2016

Ken Lockwood Gorge (C1 water) – running warm on June 1, 2016

[Update – July 26, 2016 – That didn’t take long – Campaign idea stolen, see Earthworks:

Planning, permitting and safety: the importance of community participation

Join us for a free webinar this Thursday

Will it be real activist training, or more expert manipulation and co-optation? We’ll let you know.  ~~~ end update]

Now that the ice is broken on the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certificate (WQC) issue, activists need campaign materials to help inform the public, build awareness, and pressure Governor Christie and DEP to deny Section 401 WQC’s.

Yesterday I posted EPA 401 Guidance, NJ’s regulatory framework, and a model Resolution that could assist in this effort – the EPA Guidance could be readily adapted to the NJ context to create a Citizen’s Guide To Using The Clean Water Act To Kill Piplines.

[additional important info:

So today we outline briefly what a summer field campaign might look like to support that Resolution and overall campaign.

We pitched this outline to the Dodge Foundation and the William Penn Foundation and did not even get the respect of a reply, so that is evidence that we’re on the right track!

On April 22, 2016 (Earth Day), the New York State DEC denied a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) for the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

Like Gov. Cuomo’s fracking moratorium, this decision has national significance and huge precedential value.

(and so did that Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision upholding local land use regulation over fracking that seems to have been ignored by activists. But, I guess I’m “ill informed” about all that because I don’t see any ENGO campaigns focused on local bans. Just the opposite – instead of local bans, it seems that after having won that local power, PA activists seek a State level action like NY and also waste resources FERC-ing off. More poor targeting – more FERC’ed up strategy.)

NY DEC’s WQC denial document provides an activist’s roadmap and a unique opportunity to enhance current organizing and activism in opposition to NJ pipelines, particularly PennEast and the Southern Reliability Line through the Pinelands.

Field campaigns that directly connect local stream impacts to the regulatory context can be very effective in building public awareness and support, particularly for DEP designated “exceptional value” streams.

This work also would generate technical information and a regulatory education to empower citizens to intervene and participate effectively in the DEP permit and 401 WQC processes. 

That campaign would include:

1) Fact sheet – 1 page – widely distributed that educates the public on what the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certificate (WQC) is and how NY State used it to kill the Constitution pipeline.

2) Fact sheet – 1 page – explaining what the NJ Surface Water Quality Standards are and how they can be enforced during pipeline permitting.

3) Fact sheet – 1 page – on how NJ DEP implements the CWA Section 401 WQC under NJ’s EPA delegated freshwater wetlands program

4) Prepare up to 6 site specific examples of pipeline C1 stream crossings, including a site specific characterization of the stream, a description of DEP’s scientific rationale for C1 designation; and a summary of why the crossing would violate State Water Quality Standards. (actual permit file reviews not included – this would take far more effort).

5) Organize up to 6 public/media field events at proposed stream crossings where site specific summaries are prepared – this would include a fact sheet, press release, and talking points for activists.

6) draft a letter to targeted local governments asking them to pass Resolutions urging DEP to reject the 401 WQ certification

7) draft a letter from residents to targeted NJ Legislators asking them to conduct hearings to oversee DEP’s implementation of the 401 WQC program and expand public involvement

8) Draft and circulate a petition to DEP Commissioner Martin to deny that WQC. This could be expanded to a formal regulatory petition for rule making, but that could be an additional stand alone project.

9) Work with activists to design signs, possible messages include::

“No pipelines through our streams and wetlands!”

“Gov. Christie: Protect Clean Water! Tell DEP to Deny the Water Quality Permit!”

“Hey Christie: Gov. Cuomo Killed A Pipeline, Why Can’t You?”

“The Clean Water Act Trumps FERC – Deny the 401 Water Quality Certificate!”

Activists were told not to criticize DEP or Gov. CHristie - these messages were suppressed

Activists were told not to criticize DEP or Gov. Christie – these messages were suppressed

10) Organize a protest event at DEP HQ building in Trenton calling on Commissioner Martin to deny WQC

Go for it!

You got the Big Foundation Money. Should have been done years ago.

End Note:

Additional Resources

  • US EPA (2006). National Guidance: Water Quality Standards


  • US EPA (2005). DRAFT – Use of Biological Information to Better Define Designated
  • Aquatic Life Uses in States and Tribal Water Quality Standards: Tiered Aquatic Life Uses


  • Use of Biological Information to Better Define Designated Aquatic Life Uses
  • Tiered Aquatic Life Uses pdf (PDF)
  • Environmental Law Institute (2005-2007). State Wetland Program Evaluation


  • Tribal Wetland Program Highlights
  • US EPA (2004). DRAFT – Water Quality Standards Module
  • US EPA (2003). Strategy for Water Quality Standards and Criteria. EPA 823-R-03-010.
  • US EPA (1990). Water Quality Standards for Wetlands: National Guidance. EPA 440-S-90-011



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