WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), introduced S.1087, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
The bill amends section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The legislation makes several key clarifications to existing law about the appropriate scope of review for a water quality certification. It would also place procedural guardrails and requirements on states as they process requests for certification to prevent future abuses.
“The water quality certification process is being abused in order to delay important energy projects,” said Barrasso. “Washington state has hijacked the water quality certification process and blocked Wyoming coal from being exported. Workers across the West would benefit from the coal export terminal Washington state has blocked. Washington state’s obstruction is about politics, not water quality. Similarly, east coast states are using these authorities to block natural gas pipeline projects. We shouldn’t weaken our economy and make America dependent on foreign energy. My legislation ensures the water quality certification process is used only to protect America’s water, not further political agendas.”
The Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019 would:
• Clarify that the scope of a section 401 review is limited to water quality impacts only;
• Clarify that states, when evaluating water quality, can only consider discharges that would result from the federally permitted or licensed activity itself – not from other sources;
• Require states to publish clear requirements for water quality certification requests;
• Require states to make final decisions on whether to grant or deny a request in writing based only on water quality reasons; and
• Require states to inform a project applicant within 90 days whether the states have all of the materials needed to process a certification request.
Read the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019 here.
Representative David McKinley (R-WV-01) will be introducing the companion bill in the House of Representatives.
Last year, Barrasso, Daines, Inhofe, Capito, and Enzi sponsored the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.
On August 16, 2018, the committee held a “Hearing to Examine Implementation of Clean Water Act Section 401 and S. 3303, the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.”
On October 4, 2018, Barrasso, Daines, Inhofe, Capito, and Enzi sent a letter to Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency then-Acting Administrator, regarding implementation of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. In the letter, the senators asked Wheeler to provide implementation direction to federal agencies regarding Section 401, in light of recent abuses by certain states.