WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and committee members Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), sent a letter to David Ross, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assistant administrator for water, regarding overreaching groundwater regulation. The letter also served as the senators’ formal comments in response to the EPA’s request for public comment on the issue.

In the letter, the senators call on EPA to clarify that discharges through groundwater are not subject to federal discharge permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The senators note that under the CWA, there is no requirement for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for discharges into groundwater and Congress made that clear when passing the legislation. They write, “Congress’s decision not to include discharges into groundwater under the CWA’s point source program is supported by the legislative history. Congress explicitly rejected amendments that would have extended CWA point source regulation to groundwater.”

The senators also highlight the fact that expanding NPDES requirements would have significant negative consequences. “Expansion of the NPDES program’s reach would also hamper municipal water agencies from carrying out their critical mission, and threaten to derail or deter projects that are environmentally beneficial. For example, innovative public infrastructure projects, such as groundwater recharge systems and green infrastructure projects, could be stymied,” write the senators. The senators also note the negative consequences for states and the agricultural sector.

Read the full letter here.

Background Information:

On April 18, 2018, the EPW committee held an oversight hearing on “The Appropriate Role of States and the Federal Government in Protecting Groundwater.” Chairman Barrasso’s opening remarks from the hearing, testimony, and witness responses to written questions were included as an addendum to the letter.