Press Releases

House Approves the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act

Washington, D.C., March 21, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act (H.R. 7023), a package of commonsense reforms to Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting processes that will continue to support clean water for the Nation while reducing regulatory burdens for the approval of energy and infrastructure projects.

H.R. 7023’s reforms reaffirm the original goals of the CWA, reduce overburdensome regulatory requirements, protect good-faith permit holders from unnecessary delays and frivolous lawsuits, and increase transparency and stakeholder participation in the development of water quality criteria.

The bill is sponsored by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC), but it consists of five separate bills that were originally introduced in the House by Chairman Rouzer, Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO), and Rep. John Duarte (R-CA).  The bill also includes key provisions offered by Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) and approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on January 31, 2024.

“I commend Chairman Rouzer and Congressmen Stauber, Owens, Burlison, and Duarte for their leadership on the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act, a bill that addresses the unfortunate weaponization over the years of the Clean Water Act to delay the permitting and construction of important infrastructure and energy projects,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO).  “This bill helps restore Clean Water Act processes that support clean water while also supporting healthy industries like farming, fishing, and manufacturing.”  

Numerous industry leaders and stakeholders have applauded the commonsense permitting reforms included in the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act.

The Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act is comprised of five standalone bills previously introduced in the House this year.

Under the provisions first introduced in January by Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer, H.R. 7023 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, “I’m proud my legislation to create a predictable and responsible permitting system for American energy and infrastructure development passed the House today.  This bill is much needed to keep projects on time and on budget — all while maintaining our nation's clean water infrastructure.  By improving the permitting process under the Clean Water Act, we can provide greater clarity for energy producers, farmers, builders, water utilities, and many others.  Just as significant, we can make America energy dominant on the world stage and lower costs for families.”

Under the provisions first introduced by Rep. Owens, H.R. 7023 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.  Rep. Owens said, “I am proud to see the House pass the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act, which includes my Water Quality Criteria Development and Transparency Act, providing a comprehensive reform to the Clean Water Act permitting process for the first time since 1972.  From increasing permitting transparency and certainty to limiting frivolous litigation, this legislation reaffirms the original goals of the CWA and modernizes the path for critical energy and infrastructure projects.”

Under the provisions first introduced by Rep. Stauber, H.R. 7023 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, “For too long, the Clean Water Act has been weaponized by radical environmentalists to block permits for critical energy and infrastructure projects.  This has come at an incredible cost to the communities we serve, and Congress must act to modernize the Clean Water Act in order to prevent further harm.  I am especially proud to see legislation I authored to prevent EPA permitting abuses included in the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act.  I look forward to seeing this legislation create more certainty in the permitting process, thus increasing our energy production.”

Under the provisions first introduced by Rep. Burlison, H.R. 7023 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.” 

Under the provisions first introduced by Rep. Duarte, H.R. 7023 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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy.  Rep. Duarte said, “I’m proud that my bill, the Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act (H.R. 7013) has successfully passed the House of Representatives as a part of Chairman Rouzer’s bill (H.R. 7023).  Its passage puts us one step closer to clean water by guaranteeing that the NPDES permits now provide clear and reliable listings of regulations, making them easily accessible and user-friendly for permit holders.  Currently, the EPA’s NPDES permit writers often include language in permits that provide loopholes for groups to sue and block permits needed for critical energy and other infrastructure improvements.  My provision closes those loopholes, codifying previously longstanding practices at the EPA to shield permit holders from liability, as long as they’ve acted in good faith and according to the terms of their permit.  This type of regulatory certainty and legal protection for permit holders is necessary for improving our Valley’s water infrastructure.”

Under the provisions introduced by Rep. Garret Graves at the Committee’s markup of the bill, H.R. 7023 codifies the practice of issuing general permits under the NPDES program, requiring EPA to either reissue NPDES general permits or provide two years written notice if they do not intend to reissue the general permit.  Another Graves provision provides greater clarity on the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  The bill requires EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue implementation guidance on the latest WOTUS rule that complies with the Supreme Court’s Sackett v. EPA decision, and the guidance must go through a public comment process. Rep. Garret Graves said, “The Biden Administration's extreme agenda wraps America in bureaucratic red tape while benefitting foreign countries.  We appreciate Congressman Rouzer's efforts to bring some common sense to environmental permitting.” 
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