USEPA Announces Proposed Rule on Clean Water Act Quality Certification

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a proposed rule in August to implement Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The USEPA says the proposed rule seeks to increase the transparency and efficiency of the 401 certification process and promote the timely review of infrastructure projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation.

This comes after President Trump issued an executive order in April that directed the administration to accelerate and promote the construction of pipelines and other important energy infrastructure. The President’s executive order directed USEPA to consult with States and Tribes on reviewing and updating guidance and regulations related to Section 401 of the CWA.

Section 401 of the CWA gives States and authorized Tribes the authority to assess potential water quality impacts of discharges from federally permitted or licensed infrastructure projects that may affect navigable waters within their borders. The USEPA says its existing certification rules have not been updated in nearly 50 years and are inconsistent with the text of CWA Section 401, leading to confusion and unnecessary delays for infrastructure projects. Under the proposed rule, USEPA hopes to modernize and clarify the timeline and scope of CWA Section 401 certification review and action to be consistent with the plain language of the CWA.

USEPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.