November 15, 2022

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Urge Federal Agencies to Enhance Permitting Review Process to Protect Public Health and U.S. Waters

Washington, DC – 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) urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to incorporate additional scrutiny and analysis in reviewing permit applications to preserve human health and the health of U.S. waters and wetlands.

“As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we urge you to incorporate additional scrutiny and economic, environmental, and public interest analysis in your review of permit applications, in order to preserve critical federal protections for human health and the health of U.S. waters and wetlands,” the Chairs said. 

The Chairs continued by requesting the EPA and Corps develop safeguards against an increasing number of polluters seeking to avoid regulatory oversight and compliance by deceptive practices: “The rise in potential sham permitting schemes, which have been proactively identified by EPA in the context of the Clean Air Act and successfully blocked in that context by the Courts, requires EPA and the Corps to exercise greater diligence in looking beyond the information provided by potential permittees and to ensure that Clean Water Act permit proposals are fully vetted through rigorous economic, environmental, and public interest analysis…. We request that EPA and the Corps develop similar regulatory safeguards in the context of the Clean Water Act to ensure that sham permit schemes are quickly identified, rigorously analyzed, and required to fully comply with the law before being considered for approval—and that those bad actors that continue to pursue sham permits be subject to even greater regulatory scrutiny and compliance measures in the future.” 

Specifically, the Chairs request the EPA and Corps: 

  • Revise Clean Water Act regulations to ensure that federal agencies have sufficient information to spot sham permit schemes; 
  • Ensure a complete, robust “public interest review” of Clean Water Act permit applications, including rigorous review of the economic viability of a proposal and its necessity in the marketplace; and 
  • Update the requirements for nationwide permits to ensure that the cumulative adverse effects of multiple crossings of waterbodies for the same approved project are fully evaluated and addressed.

This letter comes on the heels of a committee report, entitled “NO CURRENT PLANS…” Pebble LP, Sham Permitting, and False Testimony Threatening the World’s Largest Salmon Habitat, that demonstrated how polluters tried to deceive federal regulators and exploit the permitting process. 

The full letter can be found here