Speak Up! Don't Let the EPA Weaken the Clean Water Act!

A pipeline along Galbraith Lake, AK | Photo by Getty Images

The Clean Water Act is the most effective tool we have to protect water for all Americans.

Unfortunately, it is under attack by proposals from President Trump and the EPA to make it easier for infrastructure projects like dams and pipelines to escape evaluation of their impacts on rivers, streams, wetland, and other water bodies.

President Trump issued Executive Order 13868 on April 10, 2019. The Executive Order directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the Clean Water Act and issue new guidance and regulations for water quality certifications. The EPA’s new guidance and proposed regulations make significant changes to when and how states and tribes can exercise their authority to issue water quality certifications. In many cases, these changes erode this authority in ways that have long been prohibited by Supreme Court cases.

These changes threaten to upend the balance of power that has been the standard for nearly 50 years by taking power away from states and tribes to regulate their waters and handing additional power to federal bureaucracies to decide what is best for local communities in terms of clean water.  Water quality certifications are the main way states and tribes ensure dams and pipelines don’t damage rivers and streams and all the uses of a river are protected, including drinking water, recreation, and fish and wildlife. Without this authority, our water will be dirtier and so will our energy supply.

Changes include:

Limitations on the conditions states or tribes can place on a 401 water quality certification, giving authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to overturn state and tribal conditions.

Exclusion of many previously protected rivers and streams by disqualifying from certification any discharges into state or tribal waters, non-point source discharges, or point-source discharges into non-navigable headwater streams and wetlands.

Strict new deadlines for action that begin when an application is received rather than when it is complete, reducing the likelihood of applications having sufficient information for states and tribes to make an informed decision.

Limitations on the type of information that can be included in an application to only that which can be provided within one year. This could eliminate the two-year standard that many states rely on to ensure they have a control year against which to measure potential impacts.

Reduced ability for states and tribes to request additional information from applicants, by shrinking the window for requests to 30 days after receiving the application.

Gives FERC the ability to set a shorter timeline for review than the one year stated in the Clean Water Act, with six months suggested.

Limitations on the ability of a state or tribal agency to deny 401 certification, without that denial being interpreted as a waiver of authority.

Moves the appeals process for denied certification from state or tribal court to federal court, shifting the burden of proof from the project applicant needing to show compliance with EPA rules to the state or tribal agency needing to demonstrate it acted within the scope of its authority.

Removes the ability for states and tribes to enforce the conditions of the 401 certification, making conditions exclusively enforceable by FERC.

You can help by letting the EPA know you oppose these changes and want them to protect clean water and state and tribal authority to issue water quality certifications. Deadline to send a letter is Monday, October 21, 2019, 5pm Eastern.




Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Water