New EPA rule limits states’ ability to protect against pollution

In the administration’s latest attack on clean water, the EPA is proposing to weaken the ability of states to protect local waters from federally permitted pollution.

An administration’s proposal published today in the Federal Register would greatly limit the authority of states to insist on full information about pollution impacts from federally licensed projects like pipelines and dams or impose conditions to ensure compliance with all state laws protecting people and water from pollution.

Today’s publication begins a 60-day period during which people can comment on this EPA proposal.

“This ill-conceived proposal is the latest in the administration’s attacks on clean water that our communities and families depend on,” says Blan Holman, managing attorney of SELC’s Charleston office. “The Clean Water Act gives states tools to protect our rivers, streams, and wetlands—this proposal takes those tools away. Handcuffing state agencies tasked with protecting the water we swim in, fish in, and drink from will only lead to more pollution in the rivers that are the lifeblood of communities across the South.” 

This proposed rule would dramatically reduce states’ ability to get full information about project pollution and severely constrain the scope of pollution impacts that states can consider and seek to remedy. 

Under the Clean Water Act, states play an essential role any time a federal pollution permit is granted. Before the permit can be issued, the Act requires that a state can review and certify whether the project complies with state pollution law through what is known as a 401 Certification. This provision ensures that states have an opportunity to use their local expertise to ensure that pollution is minimized and clean water is protected. Often, this means that the applicant for the permit must provide more information and better safeguards for the project.

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