Committee Approves Commonsense Clean Water Act Permitting Reforms and Additional Legislation
Today, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to approve a slate of measures to reform and restore permitting processes under the Clean Water Act, ensure rail transportation access for people with disabilities, and improve Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) consideration of wildfire mitigation projects.
“The Clean Water Act and clean water support healthy communities and industries across the United States, from farming to fishing to manufacturing. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this law weaponized over the years to delay permits and even prevent critical infrastructure and energy projects from moving forward. I want to thank Chairman Rouzer and Congressmen Stauber, Owens, Burlison, and Duarte for their work on today’s bills that, to be clear, do not overhaul or roll back the Clean Water Act, but instead ensure that permitting processes are more consistent and transparent,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). “I also want to thank Congressman Molinaro for his leadership in helping to ensure and improve Amtrak access for all, and Congressman LaMalfa for his work to help ensure wildfire mitigation measures can better help save lives and reduce disaster costs.”
The following legislation was approved at today’s full Committee markup.
Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (ANS) to H.R. 7023, the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act, is comprised of five standalone bills previously introduced in the House:
The Nationwide Permitting Improvement Act, 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.
Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer said, “Time is money, and permitting disruptions are a key cause of infrastructure project delays while driving up the cost at the same time. The Nationwide Permitting Improvement Act addresses these permitting challenges with commonsense solutions to keep critical projects on time as well as on budget, responsibly utilize our natural resources, and improve our transportation network.”
The Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act, introduced by Rep. John Duarte (R-CA), ensures that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy.
Rep. Duarte said, “I am delighted that my bill, the Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act, has successfully passed through the Transportation and Infrastructure committee under H.R. 7023. The passage of this bill puts us one step closer to clean water by guaranteeing that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits now provide clear and reliable listings of regulations, making them easily accessible and user-friendly for permit holders.”
The Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act, 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 NPDES permits, which would provide for additional public participation and limited judicial review.
Rep. Owens said, “Every stakeholder in Utah and across the nation deserves to have a voice in determining the EPA’s water quality criteria development for NPDES permits. As the first Utahn to serve on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in more than twenty years, and now joined by Congresswoman Celeste Maloy, I am proud to champion efficient, transparent, and innovative management of our water resources. I applaud the inclusion of my legislation, the Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act, in H.R. 7023 and will continue to champion transparency and collaboration in how the federal government does business.”
The Reducing Permitting Uncertainty Act, 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.
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, as included in H.R. 7023, 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.”
The Judicial Review Timeline Clarity Act, 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.
Rep. Burlison said, “For far too long, environmental activist groups have used litigation to stall crucial projects. The Judicial Review Timeline Clarity Act, as included in H.R. 7023, 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.”
H.R. 5089, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, introduced by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC), eliminates a duplicative regulatory process at the EPA for the use of pesticides, saving taxpayer money and reducing regulatory burdens on pesticide users, while maintaining the same level of environmental protection.
“The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act serves to remove duplicative regulation without rolling back any environmental safeguards," said Rouzer. “In doing so, this commonsense bill will save taxpayer dollars, cut bureaucratic red tape, and reduce the regulatory strain all while maintaining public health and environmental protections.”
H.R. 6248, the Think Differently Transportation Act, introduced by Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY), addresses Amtrak’s ongoing non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and improves rail transportation access for people with disabilities.
Rep. Molinaro said, “Thirty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, Amtrak’s leadership still has work to do to meet the law and make trains and rail stations accessible to individuals of all disabilities. My bipartisan bill forces the issue, and I am thankful to this committee for sending it to the House Floor.”
H.R. 7070, the Wildfire Response Improvement Act, on which Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) is the lead Republican, requires the FEMA Administrator to more accurately assess wildfire related mitigation projects to ensure the most effective mitigation projects are considered to save lives and reduce future costs of disasters.
Rep. LaMalfa said, “Today, federal support for wildfires ends as soon as the fire is extinguished. Rural counties in my district in Northern California have struggled through the recovery process, all while trying to mitigate damage from post-fire property damage from mudslides and flooding. My bill will greatly help these counties and towns through the recovery process. I thank Chairman Graves for moving it quickly through the Committee.”
More information from today’s markup, including recorded votes taken, will be available here.