WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) released the following statement in support of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s announcement of the agency’s final rule on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The final rule will help accelerate the construction of energy infrastructure projects across the nation:
“I applaud President Trump and EPA Administrator Wheeler for their final rule that will prevent further abuse and politicization of Clean Water Act Section 401 authorities. Some states have abused Section 401 authorities to block the construction of critical energy infrastructure projects for reasons completely unrelated to water quality. This new rule maintains strong standards for water quality, while also supporting the high-paying construction jobs needed to build pipelines, export terminals, and other critical energy projects. This important rule will provide common sense reforms to ensure our nation’s waterways are protected, while putting an end to the radical tactics some states are using to pursue their ‘keep it in the ground’ agenda.”
EPA finalized this rule pursuant to the direction of Executive Order 13868, “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.” In this Executive Order, President Trump directed EPA to review Section 401 and EPA’s related regulations and guidance to determine whether the agency’s policies should be updated or clarified.
Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states the authority to review whether a federally permitted project will impact the water quality of navigable waters within state borders. While this authority is important in protecting water quality, Section 401 has been abused by some states to deny critical and legitimate energy infrastructure projects for reasons unrelated to water quality. The final rule limits reviews to water quality impacts and requires a final decision be made by states within one year. 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 clarifying that 401 certification is 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 401 water quality certification process.
- Promotes early engagement and coordination among project proponents, certifying authorities and federal licensing and permitting agencies.
In October 2019, Scalise signed a letter in support of the EPA’s proposed rule regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
Click here to read the final rule.