Press Releases

T&I Republican Bills Cut Red Tape & Increase Clean Water Act Permitting Efficiency

Washington, D.C., January 18, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Republican Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced multiple bills to cut red tape, streamline reviews, and provide greater regulatory certainty under Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting processes. The measures are targeted, commonsense reforms that will strengthen the permitting process for permit seekers and holders, as well as provide greater clarity for permitting agencies.  

The five bills to clarify permitting reviews under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are:

  • Nationwide Permitting Improvement Act (H.R. 7023) – introduced by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC)
  • Reducing Permitting Uncertainty Act (H.R. 7026) – introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN)
  • Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act (H.R. 7021) – introduced by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT)
  • Judicial Review Timeline Clarity Act (H.R. 7008) – introduced by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO)
  • Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act (H.R. 7013) – introduced by Rep. John Duarte (R-CA)

    Nationwide Permitting Improvement Act (H.R. 7023)
    This bill, introduced by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC), streamlines the Nationwide Permit (NWP) process and maintains certainty that regulated entities involved in improving U.S. energy production, transportation infrastructure, and other commercial activities have had for years.

    The bill codifies longstanding, historical interpretation and practice around NWPs and provides clarity regarding several areas where challenges have risen against the well-established process.  The bill extends the period of reissuance for general permit holders from five to ten years; clarifies that when issuing NWPs, only the categories within the confines of CWA Section 404 authority (dredge and fill material discharges) are considered; and provides a clear, predictable process for good actors, including those providing fuels through linear pipelines.  Click here to read the legislation.

    Rep. Rouzer said, “Permitting delays are stifling important infrastructure projects across the country.  The Nationwide Permitting Improvement Act makes commonsense permitting reforms to keep projects on time and goods moving.  A predictable permitting process is imperative for building the infrastructure necessary to responsibly utilize our natural resources, unleash American energy independence, and improve our transportation network.”

    Reducing Permitting Uncertainty Act (H.R. 7026)
    This bill, introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), prevents the EPA from vetoing a Clean Water Act Section 404 dredge and fill permit before a permit application has been filed or after a permit has already been issued by the Corps. 

    Under CWA Section 404(c), the EPA has the authority to veto a pending permit application if it is determined that it will have adverse effects on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fisheries, wildlife, or recreation areas. However, there have been instances where the EPA has either preemptively issued a veto before there was an application or belatedly revoked a permit after the Corps approved it.  The bill simply clarifies that the EPA’s veto authority may only be used while an application for a dredge and fill permit is pending through the normal permitting process, as originally intended under the CWA.  Click here to read the legislation.

    Rep. Stauber said, “The Democrat Administrations of late are run by radical environmentalists who abuse the law and bend it to their will. The bureaucrats at the EPA are by far the worst offenders. The Reducing Permitting Uncertainty Act would prevent the EPA from using its Clean Water Act veto authority to preemptively reject dredge and fill projects that have yet to file an application or retroactively eliminate already permitted projects. By clarifying the intent of the Clean Water Act, we can eliminate executive overreach, create more certainty in the permitting process, and, in the long term, increase our energy production.”

    Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act (H.R. 7021)
    This bill, introduced by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), establishes a more transparent procedure for the development of water quality criteria by the EPA often used for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which would provide for additional public participation and limited judicial review.

    The EPA develops recommended water quality criteria under CWA Section 304(a), which are used by many states in carrying out their NPDES permitting responsibilities.  Given the importance of water quality criteria development, this bill ensures that outside comments are legitimately considered in the development of these guidelines, and that Section 304(a) water quality criteria are subject to Administrative Procedures Act notice and comment rulemaking requirements and limited judicial review, ensuring regulated entities have a seat at the table and water quality is protected.  Click here to read the legislation.

    Rep. Owens said, “The EPA’s water quality criteria development for NPDES permits lacks transparency and often ignores stakeholder input. The Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act tackles that issue by ensuring that outside comments are not just heard but legitimately considered, fostering a collaborative approach to water quality management. Employers in Utah's Fourth District and across the nation deserve a say and a seat at the decision-making table. I'm proud to be a champion for this commonsense, transformative step towards a cleaner and more participatory future for our water resources.”

    Judicial Review Timeline Clarity Act (H.R. 7008)
    This bill, introduced by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO), sets reasonable judicial review timelines for Clean Water Act Section 404 dredge and fill permits to help ensure reliable and efficient project authorizations, which will help spur commercial activity.

    The bill ensures that any lawsuit seeking judicial review of a Section 404 general or individual permit must be filed within the first sixty days of its issuance.  Furthermore, if a court deems that the Secretary of the Army did not comply with the underlying statute in issuing a permit, this legislation requires the court to remand back to the Secretary. The Secretary is required to take any action the court may order within 180 days of the remand.  Click here to read the legislation.

    Rep. Burlison said, “For far too long, environmental activist groups have used litigation to stall crucial projects.  The Judicial Review Timeline Clarity Act will provide certainty to agencies and communities in order to facilitate speedy authorizations, spur infrastructure development, and safeguard against endless lawsuits which stall crucial projects.  Common sense needs to make it into our legal system.  When we allow environmentalists to file frivolous lawsuits, it wastes time and resources for projects that the people of our nation depend on.  Courts shouldn't be used as vehicles to impose an environmentalist agenda.” 

    Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act (H.R. 7013)
    This bill, introduced by Rep. John Duarte (R-CA), ensures that NPDES permit writers do their job in a manner that permittees can rely on, limits opportunities for frivolous lawsuits, and protects permit holders that are acting in good faith, following the specific requirements in their permits in accordance with decades-old EPA policy. 

    This bill clarifies that permits must include only clear, objective, concrete limits on specific pollutants or waterbody conditions, and that as long as permit holders are adhering to these clear effluent limitations, they are in compliance under the law. Additionally, this bill codifies the longstanding EPA policy that permit holders are shielded from liability as long as they are following the terms in their NPDES permits and have provided all relevant information to the permit writer during the application process.  Click here to read the legislation.

    Rep. Duarte said, “I am proud to introduce the Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act which cuts red tape and brings greater regulatory certainty to the Clean Water Act’s permitting processes. This is a commonsense bill ensuring that the NPDES permits clearly and reliably list their regulations for ease of use by permit holders, while also safeguarding permit holders who act in good faith.”