Sarbanes Raises Concerns About the Trump EPA’s Quiet Efforts to Undermine Clean Water Standards

At a House Subcommittee on Energy hearing today, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) expressed serious reservations about the Trump Administration’s efforts, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to weaken the Clean Water Act and undermine the ability of states, including Maryland, to protect water quality.

During the hearing, Congressman Sarbanes asked Cheryl A. LaFleur, one of the longest-tenured commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, about the consequences of subverting the Clean Water Act.

“I want to ask some questions about Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which empowers states and authorized tribes to issue water quality certifications which must be included within certain federal permits and licenses – like natural gas pipeline projects,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “As you know, the Supreme Court upheld this power is ‘essential in the scheme to preserve state authority to address the broad range of pollution that threatens our nation’s waters.’”

Sarbanes continued: “I have some concerns … [that] the EPA has proposed a rule that will severely limit the authority of states to issue water quality certifications that protect their local water quality…. It’s kind of like putting a straightjacket on the process you’d want to see for thoughtful review and input at the state level. Do you have any concerns with the EPA’s proposed changes to the Section 401….?

LaFleur responded: “Yes. I am not a big expert on the Clean Water Act, but I am concerned that the new EPA proposal really is inconsistent with the whole spirit of the Clean Water Act.”