The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Erin Fitzgerald,

EPA Rule to Reduce Federal Oversight of Critical Waterways

States controlling more federal permits could allow more pollution and reckless development in country's wetlands and waters

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a rule that would guide how states can take over dredge and fill permitting authority over federally protected waters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also known as assuming 404 permitting. Dredge and fill permits are what industries like mining, factory farming, oil and gas companies, and real estate developers, need to dredge or fill a wetland, parts of a lake, or a river to build. This is mostly irreversible damage.

The Clean Water Act is under relentless attack from polluting industries, their friends in pollution-friendly states, and – most recently – the Supreme Court, who severely reduced the scope of what wetlands are protected by the Act in Sackett v. EPA. We have already seen states act to further weaken federal protections after Sackett, and we must be wary of other attempts to reduce federal oversight of our water and wetlands.

The following is a statement from Julian Gonzalez, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice’s Healthy Communities program

“EPA must ensure protections for waters and affected communities remain in place through this process, rather than just respond to states’ and industry predilection without considering the pitfalls and reduced water protections that may follow. Most recently we have seen states like Florida work with the Trump administration, cutting corners to unlawfully take this permitting authority from federal agencies, with disastrous consequences. It is up to EPA to ensure that it will not happen again. Florida will not be the last state that tries to erode federal oversight of our waters and wetlands by taking over 404 permitting while avoiding accountability.

“EPA must retain robust oversight of the 404-permitting process, set strong minimum standards that all states must meet before they can assume a 404 program, and ensure this rule does not result in lesser federal protections under the CWA and other protective laws triggered by federal permits, like the Endangered Species Act. EPA must ensure that the final version of this rule reflects the concerns of affected communities, which have been fighting attacks on the Clean Water Act, and who have not been consulted on this issue at all. A weak framework for 404 assumptions will further embolden the industry’s deregulatory agenda to destroy wetlands and pollute our waters in the name of profit. We look forward to giving EPA additional feedback on this important rule.”

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.