Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a new rule that would significantly restrict the role for states in protecting water quality within their borders by making major changes to Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.
Washington State Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson issued a statement in response:
“With the stroke of a pen, EPA intends to handcuff Washington’s ability to protect our waters, our environment and our communities. This action is a blatant attempt to rewrite the 1972 Clean Water Act by diminishing the role of the states in protecting water quality. It makes a mockery of the federal-state partnership that has protected our nation’s waters for nearly 50 years.
“EPA’s new rule is a solution in search of a problem. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act is working as Congress intended, and continues to be successfully implemented across the country.
“This massive federal overreach under Section 401 is unprecedented. It is also illegal and indefensible – and it will not stand. We will work with Attorney General Bob Ferguson to defend our state’s authority to protect water quality for the environment and for the 7.5 million Washingtonians we serve.”
EPA’s new Section 401 rule limits what types of pollution discharges a state can review under the Clean Water Act. It also limits the amount of information a state can request from an applicant, dramatically shortens the amount of review time states have to act on an application, and limits the conditions that states can put into 401 certifications to protect state waters from pollution.