News Release Center for Biological Diversity
Army Corps Issues Blanket Approval to Destroy Tens of Thousands of Acres of U.S. Wetlands
Program Allows Mass Environmental Degradation With Limited Oversight
PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the latest version of its “nationwide permit” program, which results in the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of wetlands every year. With little consideration for the impact of such widespread habitat devastation, the program’s permits have greenlighted major projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Gulf segment of the Keystone XL pipeline without concern for the consequences of losing wetlands and harming aquatic resources.
“This program rubber-stamps major projects like oil pipelines that leak and spill, degrading clean water and cultural sites,” said Jared Margolis, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Under the program, those projects proceed without regard for the people, places or wildlife in their paths. It took a major protest by the Standing Rock Sioux over the Dakota Access Pipeline to finally force the Army Corps to give that enterprise any meaningful consideration at all.”
Approved approximately every five years since 1982, the 52 new permits will allow hundreds of thousands of discharges of dredged or fill material to the nation’s waters and wetlands from oil and gas development, pipeline and transmission-line construction and coal mining. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have previously found that these activities — which are approved with little or no environmental review — threaten iconic imperiled species including whooping cranes, Florida manatees and the hundreds of migratory birds that need wetlands to survive.
“The Corps’ complete failure to properly account for the cumulative harm to essential habitats is unacceptable and puts species at serious risk,” Margolis said. “The deeply flawed program is simply a major loophole that benefits corporations as it irreversibly harms communities and the nation’s migratory birds and fish.”
The impacts of the activities allowed by the program have resulted in significant environmental harm. Thousands of projects each year rely on the permits to conduct activities that cause sedimentation and contamination of essential habitats, directly harming species through construction activities and powerline collisions. However, the extent of the impacts remains unknown, since the Army Corps does not collect sufficient information to consider those effects.
Thousands of public comments were submitted highlighting the risk of harm from this program, yet the Army Corps failed to take the steps necessary to comply with the law and prevent the continued devastation of our wetland resources.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.