May 27, 2021

Chairs DeFazio and Napolitano Applaud EPA’s Decision to Revise Trump-era Restrictions on States’ Rights Within the Clean Water Act, Urge Further Action to Ensure Clean Water for All

Washington, DC – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) issued the following statements after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would revise restrictions implemented by the Trump administration meant to limit state oversight authority over actions that could affect state water quality. Specifically, the previous administration’s guidance would limit the role of states in implementing water quality standards under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, a provision that allows states and Tribal authorities the ability to ensure that federally approved actions comply with state water quality standards and state law.

“Today’s decision is a positive step toward restoring the longstanding federal-state partnership in implementing the Clean Water Act and ensuring that states have the right to protect their citizens from water pollution,” Chair DeFazio said. “As the Biden administration continues to put today’s announcement into action, I’ll be watching closely to make sure the administration is doing all it can to vigorously protect people’s access to clean water. That includes repealing the Trump ‘Dirty Water rule,’ which continues to leave our rivers, streams, and wetlands vulnerable to pollution every day it remains on the books.”

“We applaud the administration for restoring the role of states in addressing their own clean water needs,” Chair Napolitano said. “As we are acutely aware of in arid Southern California and the Southwest, each state and region has different natural water features, water availability, and water quality. States that are willing are best suited for managing and protecting their waters based on local concerns.” 

Additional Background:

In September 2019, the T&I Majority Staff released a report titled, “Clean Water Under Attack,” which highlighted the five most damaging things the previous administration did to undermine clean water, including seeking to limit state oversight authority over actions that could affect state water quality under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. To read the report, click here.

In July 2019, DeFazio wrote a letter requesting that then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler provide further information to the committee about the impacts and changes made to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, including any records of communication on this matter, data on the number of state certifications under this section, and an explanation of the basis for this proposal. To read the letter, click here.