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Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal regarding the water quality certification process. The proposal would reform implementation of the water quality certification process under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

“The Clean Water Act is being hijacked by a number of coastal states to block energy projects,” said Barrasso. “This coastal blockade cannot continue. It threatens America’s energy dominance and unfairly harms energy workers in Wyoming and other states. These coastal states are preventing cleaner American fuels from getting to communities in the North East and around the world. These states can’t be allowed to weaponize the Clean Water Act. I applaud the Trump administration for working with me to develop solutions.”

“This is important for exporting Wyoming’s natural resources and supporting jobs in our state,” said Enzi. “Clarifying the water quality certification process should lead to a more responsible permitting process focused on protecting America’s water rather than political motives.”

Background Information

EPA’s issuance of proposed regulations is the agency’s next step to implement President Trump’s April 10th executive order Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth. Section 3 of the executive order required EPA within 60 days to issue guidance to states, tribes, and other agencies as EPA works to improve the water quality certification process under Section 401 of Clean Water Act. After issuance of the guidance, EPA was required to propose new regulations within 120 days, which the agency is doing now. EPA must finalize regulations within 13 months of the Executive Order.

Barrasso has pushed EPA to modernize the section 401 process as chairman of EPW. Barrasso, along with Capito, Daines, Inhofe, and Enzi, asked EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to determine “the need for new clarifying guidance or regulations” to implement section 401 in an October 4, 2018 letter. The letter followed an EPW hearing on section 401 in August 2018. During that hearing, the Committee considered Barrasso’s Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018.

Barrasso introduced the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019 this year. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Daines, Inhofe, Capito, Enzi, and Cramer. 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. Representative Dave McKinley (R-WV-1) introduced companion legislation.