Senator Hyde-Smith wastes no time in laying the blame at Thompson’s feet.
On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stopped the effort to construct flood control pumps for the Yazoo Backwater Area of the Mississippi Delta.
The action comes after Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Democrat who represents much of the Delta area, sent a letter to the EPA requesting they investigate the agency’s handling of project during the Trump Administration.
Until the Trump Administration acted in the waning days of this term to move the project forward to assist homeowners and businesses in the impacted area, it had been stalled by the EPA as far back as the Obama Administration as they were sensitive to the more radical voices in the Sierra Club and other environmentalist groups who sought to kill the project.
Before the Trump Administration agreed to the project, Congressman Thompson said it was “of critical importance for the second congressional district of Mississippi,” and had requested funding for the project. That was as late as February 2020.
“This issue is not only impacting the homes and livelihood of constituents when we experience high flood levels, but farmers in Mississippi are heavily impacted as well,” Thompson said a year prior to the Trump EPA approving the project. “The big economic blow will fall on farmers in the area. With agriculture being an immense economic source, specifically in my district, it is vital for us to remedy this problem.”
However, now that President Joe Biden’s appointees are in place at the EPA, Thompson appears to have changed his tune, siding with the liberal activists instead of his constituents.
Governor Tate Reeves issued a statement saying the Biden Administration is finding new ways to fail Mississippians.
“It seems like every day, the Biden Administration finds a new way to fail Mississippians,” said Governor Reeves. “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.”
Mississippi U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who had been working to secure the project since being elected in 2018, wasted no time in laying the blame for the EPA’s decision at the feet of Congressman Thompson.
“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,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith.
In January, Senator Hyde-Smith was instrumental in securing $63.6 million in FY2021 funding to Mississippi for work on 17 projects, including $9.2 million for pre-construction project planning and related activities. The funds were to be used to acquire mitigation lands for the new, recently approved Proposed Plan for the Yazoo Area Pump Project.
Hyde-Smith said she would continue to work for the people of the Delta to try to salvage this project.
“I do know we absolutely do not need empty platitudes from the EPA on a ‘path forward’ and environmental justice,” Hyde-Smith said. “We also do not need our own working against a project that will ultimately protect lives and the environment from repeated catastrophic flooding.”
Senator Hyde-Smith stated that the EPA action is an abuse of discretion and opens the door to a host of legal questions that should, and will likely, be challenged.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker also released a statement on the news of the EPA’s reversal on the Yazoo Pumps. He says he is deeply frustrated that 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,” Wicker said. “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.”
Wicker says 94% of the homes that this project would save from the 100-year floodplain are minority-occupied, saying 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,” Senator Wicker said. “However, I intend to continue fighting to achieve approval of this much-needed flood control project.”
The Mississippi Levee Board released the following statement on the reversal by the EPA:
“For 80 years, our community has stood by as the Federal Government has played politics with the completion of the last pumping station on the Mississippi River, enduring devastating flooding in the South Mississippi Delta nearly every year as a consequence.
“The January 2021 Record of Decision, at long last allowing the completion of the life-and livelihood-saving Yazoo Backwater Pumps, was a godsend after decades of flooding and two back-to-back years of the most egregious flooding events that took the homes of nearly 700 of our neighbors. 94 percent of those homes were minority occupied and many of them remain uninhabitable today.
“Despite the Biden Administration and the EPA Administrator’s repeated insistence that environment justice is a priority, including during a meeting this past Sunday where Administrator Regan had the opportunity to hear directly from those still suffering from the 2019 flood, today, they chose to ignore the concerns of our community and determined that no pumps can be built in the Yazoo Backwater Area.
“There is no project that better meets the goals of environmental justice as prioritized by the Biden Administration and Administrator Regan, and without pumps, there is no relief from annual devastating flooding. The lives and livelihoods of our neighbors, 62 percent of whom are people of color and 28 percent living below the poverty line, are our priority. The Levee Board will consider all options, including potential legal action, to advance this essential project.”
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann issued the following statement late Wednesday afternoon:
“To say we are disappointed in the EPA’s rejection of the Yazoo Pumps and Congressman Thompson’s stance against the project is an understatement. The federal government has an obligation to the families and farmers in the South Delta, and we will continue to fight for them.”
Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney released the following statement:
“I am disappointed in the Biden Administration’s lack of action to protect Mississippians and their property through the rejection of the Yazoo Pumps Project. I have long farmed and worked that Delta area and understand the impact this cancellation will have on our agricultural community and Delta residents. I will continue to support and fight for the installation of Yazoo pumps.”
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson issued the following statement regarding EPA’s withdrawal of support for the Yazoo Pumps.
“The EPA’s decision to retract its previous approval and instead oppose the Yazoo Pumps once again is a huge atrocity. Mississippians in the South Delta, farmers, state and local leaders, the EPA and the US Corps of Engineers were united in a plan, and in agreement on a solution reached earlier this year to finish the pumps. Now, the Biden Administration’s EPA has dashed those hopes.
These are not natural flooding issues; they were created by the federal government’s water control plan, and they continue because the federal government has failed to construct these pumps it first approved more than 80 years ago. The EPA may not be able to see it from Washington, DC, but when the South Delta floods, Mississippians see it in their fields and businesses, they feel the water in the living rooms. These floodwaters destroy Mississippi farmland and homes, roads and businesses, and this government-created disaster destroys our wildlife and environment. Rich, and poor alike, suffer from this government-made problem and will continue to suffer as a result of this environmental injustice perpetuated by the Biden Administration EPA.
The Yazoo Pumps would mitigate the flooding, protect our farmland and the environment, and safeguard homes and schools throughout Delta communities, and I promise you I will continue to fight for and stand with Mississippians who demand the federal government finish the pumps.”