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Press Release

E&C Republican Leaders Applaud EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Rule


06.01.20

Washington, DC –Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Republican Leader John Shimkus (R-IL) released a statement on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recent announcement of a final rule on section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

“We applaud the EPA for today’s announcement. This final rule on Section 401 puts an end to abuse of the Clean Water Act, helps accelerate the construction of vital energy infrastructure, and ensures the protection of our nation’s waterways,” the Committee leaders said. “We look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues and the Trump Administration to promote American energy infrastructure while protecting water quality across communities.”

Background:

  • In April 2019, President Trump issued an executive order that directed EPA to ensure states comply with the plain language and intent of our nation’s environmental laws, and specifically Section 401, which gives states a say in federally approved projects that may impact certain water resources within a state.
  • This final rule puts in place clear guidelines that finally give these projects a path forward, and prevents states from using the Clean Water Act in ways that hold hostage the permitting and construction of our nation’s energy infrastructure.
  • In promulgating a final rule, EPA conducted the first comprehensive analysis of the text, structure and legislative history of Section 401. As a result, the final rule:
    • Specifies statutory and regulatory timelines for review and action on a Section 401 certification—requiring final action to be taken within one year of receiving a certification request.
    • Clarifies the scope of Section 401, including establishing that 401 certification is only triggered based on the potential for a project to result in a discharge from a point source into a water of the United States. When states look at issues other than the impact on water quality, they go beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act.
    • Explains EPA’s roles under Section 401.
    • Reaffirms the agency’s statutory responsibility to provide technical assistance to any party involved in a Section 401water quality certification process.
    • Promotes early engagement and coordination among project proponents, certifying authorities and federal licensing and permitting agencies.
  • Properly implemented, Section 401 is an important tool that can be used to help protect water quality while allowing the federal permitting and licensing process to go forward in a timely manner.
  • Prior to issuing this proposed rule, EPA consulted with state, local and tribal partners and engaged with federal partners on this rulemaking effort. The agency received more than 120,000 public comments on the rulemaking and carefully reviewed all comments received in completing this final rule.
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