Environmental Protection Agency restores Yazoo Pumps veto

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YAZOO COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restored its Clean Water Act veto of the Yazoo Pumps project in the Mississippi Delta.

The decision reinstates Clean Water Act protections for some of the nation’s richest wetlands and waters, which provide habitat for over 28 million migrating birds each year. However, the EPA reaffirmed its support of advancing effecting flood solutions for communities in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

In January, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of American Rivers, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Healthy Gulf, challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to exempt the Yazoo Pumps from the 2008 veto.

The project was initially vetoed during the George W. Bush administration due to environmental impacts.

U.S. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker released the following statements about the EPA’s decision to reinstate the veto.

This is an absolutely terrible day for the people who live in the Mississippi Delta and an even sadder day for the country when an agency like the EPA refuses to do the right thing for the people. I also give credit where credit is due. Congressman Bennie Thompson destroyed this project, taking one position in his district but working against it in Washington.

This EPA action is an abuse of discretion and couldn’t be more arbitrary or capricious. It also opens the door to a host of legal questions that should, and will likely, be challenged.

I will continue to work for the people of the Delta to try to salvage this project, which should have been built decades ago. I do know we absolutely do not need empty platitudes from the EPA on a ‘path forward’ and environmental justice. We also do not need our own working against a project that will ultimately protect lives and the environment from repeated catastrophic flooding.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.)

I am deeply frustrated the EPA has chosen to reverse its guidance on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps and leave the people of the South Mississippi Delta in harm’s way.

The federal government authorized the pumps 80 years ago, but the project has been held up by bureaucrats and red tape ever since.

Today’s action means that roads will continue to be impassable, deer and other wildlife and plant life will die, hypoxia will kill fish, small businesses will shut down, and residents will continue to be forced to leave their houses.

In fact, 94% of the homes that this project would save from the 100-year floodplain are minority-occupied. It amounts to an environmental injustice.

The government has made a promise to address the flooding problem in Mississippi. Today’s decision makes it harder to fulfill this promise and will delay a solution. However, I intend to continue fighting to achieve approval of this much-needed flood control project.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) responded to Sen. Hyde-Smith’s statement.

Today, Senator Hyde-Smith accused me of advocating for the Yazoo Pumps Project in Mississippi while not supporting it in Washington. The Senator is wrong. I have gone on record in support of this project, and it is documented. Now, she has the burden to produce a list of the people I have spoken to against the pumps project. IF SHE CANNOT PRODUCE THE LIST, IT IS CLEAR SHE IS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)

Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) released the following statement about the decision.

It seems like every day, the Biden Administration finds a new way to fail Mississippians. The Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency realized the importance of protecting the Mississippi Delta and its residents when they allowed this project to proceed. Instead, President Biden is choosing to put radical ‘environmentalists’ ahead of human lives and livelihoods. My administration will fight this decision and stop at nothing until this project gets done.

Gov. Tate Reeves (R-Miss.)

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