Washington Waves
Washington Waves

EPA Issues New CWA Section 401 Final Rule

Washington, D.C.—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule to restore the authority granted to states, territories and tribes to protect water resources under the Clean Water Act Section 401.

Two key House Republicans responded by claiming the rule reinforces the weaponization of the law to block infrastructure projects.

“With EPA’s final Clean Water Act Section 401 rule, we are affirming the authority of states, territories and tribes to protect precious water resources while advancing federally permitted projects in a transparent, timely and predictable way,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

Under Section 401, EPA stated, a federal agency may not issue a license or permit to conduct any activity that may result in any discharge into a water of the United States unless the appropriate state, territory or authorized tribe issues a Section 401 water quality certification or waives certification.

EPA added the rule provides regulatory certainty to advance federally permitted projects, citing a six-month default timeframe when the federal agency and certifying authority fail to reach an agreement and a one-year maximum timeframe for certification review.

EPA said the rule emphasizes that states, territories and tribes may only consider the adverse water quality impacts from the activity and limits delays by providing a clear approach to defining the required contents in a request for certification.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-N.C.) said the rule will allow infrastructure and energy projects to be blocked for reasons with nothing to do with the Clean Water Act.

“This new rule still allows for states to singlehandedly torpedo crucial development of interstate energy and infrastructure projects for reasons unrelated to the Clean Water Act,” they said in a joint statement.

EPA’s new rule takes effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Shutdown Looming

With the clock ticking toward a government shutdown at midnight September 30, the Republican-controlled House appeared unable to come up with a proposal that would keep federal agencies open even temporarily.

And even if Republicans could come up with such a stopgap measure, it will be expected to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where a bipartisan approach has been embraced.

“House Republicans rejected their own extremist bill, and by rejecting it, that’s a dead giveaway they’re not serious about avoiding a shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reminded everyone why he is not a fan of government shutdowns.

“They never have produced a policy change, and they have always been a loser for Republicans politically,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who prides himself in never giving up, said his conference was moving closer to a way to avoid a shutdown.

Users Board To Meet

The Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB) is scheduled to meet October 19 in Springfield, Va., to discuss the status of the U.S. inland waterways system and projects.

Open to the public, the meeting is to begin at 9 a.m. EDT at the Hilton Springfield Hotel, 6550 Loisdale Road, Springfield, VA 22150.

An online portion of the IWUB meeting can be accessed at https://usace1.webex.com/meet/ndc.nav, Public Call-in: USA Toll-Free 844-800-2712, USA Caller Paid/International Toll: 1–669-234-1177 Access Code: 199 117 3596, Security Code 1234.

Agenda items include the status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; fiscal year 2024 funding for navigation; low water actions for 2023; the Illinois Waterway consolidated closure for 2023; projects for the Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System Three Rivers, Arkansas, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Brazos River Floodgates and Colorado River Locks; and construction activities for the Monongahela River Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4 replacements, the Upper Ohio River Montgomery Lock, Chickamauga Lock and Kentucky Lock Addition projects.

For additional information on registering to participate in the meeting, submitting comments or special accommodations, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438 or Mark.Pointon@usace.army.mil.

Truck Parking Grants

A $10.5 million grant to fund a truck parking facility near the port at Caldwell Parish, La., was among the awards announced by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Other awards for truck parking projects directed $22.9 million to Caldwell County, Texas, $15 million to Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando, Fla., and $22 million near Memphis, Tenn.

Describing the funding as “historic,” FMCSA said the grants include a 65 percent increase in funding for truck parking projects over last year and critical efforts to support truck drivers and improve safety.