Protecting States’ and Tribes’ Voices on Clean Water Nationwide

A new Trump administration rule guts provisions of the Clean Water Act (Section 401), which for nearly 50 years have provided for states’ and authorized Tribes’ self-determination in permitting for a wide array of projects requiring federal approval within their borders. The rule also suppresses state and Tribal public participation processes that moor U.S. water policy in the harbor of democracy.

This rule change is separate from rollbacks to the Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS), which eliminates protections for many waterbodies throughout the country, but represents an equally dangerous threat to clean water and public health nationwide: Section 401 applies broadly to any proposed federally licensed or permitted activity that may result in a discharge into any waterway that is covered under the law. Projects that may be approved against states’ and Tribes’ wishes include pipelines, hydropower, industrial plants, municipal facilities, and wetland development.

Working in combination, the Section 401 and WOTUS rollbacks will make it virtually impossible for states, Tribes, and communities to stand in opposition to projects that will pollute and harm their rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. We will not stand for this unprecedented federal power grab that goes against the intent of Congress to integrate state and federal authority for permitting decisions affecting state waterways.

Photo credit: Rich Bowers

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