The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized damaging changes to its state water quality certification regulations under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. Section 401 is an essential part of the Clean Water Act, providing states with broad authority to protect water quality within their borders, and giving local communities a voice when massive projects are planned that can harm waters they depend on for drinking, fishing, and swimming. Waterkeeper Alliance intends to fight this rollback.
Statement from Daniel E. Estrin, General Counsel and Advocacy Director at Waterkeeper Alliance:
“This dangerous federal power grab is a blatant and unlawful attempt to weaken state authority to protect waterways and wetlands from damage and destruction caused by projects such as dams and pipelines. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act clearly gives states and tribes the power to decide whether a planned activity or project would hurt its waters. In most cases, Section 401 requests are granted and projects are completed, occasionally with more protective conditions required by the state. It is extremely rare for a state’s Section 401 decision to block a project from being completed.
Congress granted the states this authority in the Clean Water Act because it knew they are best situated to make these critically important decisions, employing local technical expertise about watersheds and listening to local voices, such as drinking water utilities, farmers, hunters, anglers, boaters, and swimmers. The administration says it’s in favor of strong state authority, but is attempting here to rewrite the rulebook to shift authority from the states to federal agencies because the president and his fossil fuel industry taskmasters are unhappy with a few decisions made by a few states that have affected a few energy projects. Sadly, it will now be up to the courts to remind the administration yet again that the president does not have the power to rewrite federal laws through agency regulations.”
Feature Image: Kyle T Perry/Shutterstock