WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), issued the following statement on the announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that the agencies will work to empower additional states and tribes to issue dredge-and-fill permits.
“States and tribes are in a position to expedite permits that allow important projects to go forward,” said Barrasso. “Today’s commitment by the administration to empower more states and tribes to issue dredge-and-fill permits recognizes the expertise they bring to the table. The Trump administration is again demonstrating its commitment to make infrastructure and environmental permitting more efficient.”
Dredge-and-fill permits – also known as Clean Water Act section 404 permits – are typically issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Clean Water Act allows states and tribes to assume dredge-and-fill permitting responsibility. Only two states – New Jersey and Michigan – have actually assumed that responsibility.
The administration’s actions will create more certainty about the assumption process and facilitate additional states’ assumption of this authority. The administration’s actions today acknowledge calls for reform of the section 404 permitting process provided by Wyoming and other states from 2015 to 2017.
Barrasso supports other ongoing efforts to reform the permitting process under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. On June 6, 2018, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Regulatory Certainty Act of 2018 (S. 3009), with Barrasso and Senators John Boozman (R-AK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) as original cosponsors. The legislation requires EPA to make any objections to a section 404 permit between the time the Corps notifies EPA it is reviewing a 404 permit application and the time the Corps issues the permit. The legislation responds to past abuses of EPA’s so-called veto authority over section 404 permits.
Barrasso also issued a statement of support for EPA’s announcement in June that it will revise the regulations that currently govern EPA’s veto authority to prevent future abuses. As Barrasso stated on June 27, 2018, “In the past, the agency has sent mixed messages to companies seeking permits. Today’s action is the first step to stop the agency from unfairly using the permitting process to slow projects. Congress should also pass the Regulatory Certainty Act to give businesses the long-term certainty they need.”