EPA’s Expanded Interpretation of its Permit Veto Authority Under the Clean Water Act

Congressional Hearing on the EPA’s Expanded Interpretation of its Permit Veto Authority Under the Clean Water Act

The hearing explored the power and reach of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to veto permits after a length of time. The section in question is 404 C, which states;

Section 404(c) authorizes EPA to prohibit, restrict, or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in waters of the United States (including wetlands) whenever it determines, after notice and opportunity for public hearing, that use of such sites for disposal would have an unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, municipal water supplies or recreational areas.

    • Since the Clean Water Act was drafted in 1972, over 2.5 million permits have been filed in conjunction with this section. Of those 2.5 million, only 13 have ever been vetoed. 12 of which, were under republican leadership.
    • Expanded interpretation of the term “Navigable waters” has given the EPA powerful abilities to regulate anything it deems is a navigable water.
    • Of the 13 times that the EPA issued a veto, it was challenged every time. Every time, the EPA won.
    • The costly and lengthy permit process increases the values of the projects, sometimes far too much and they are forced to shut down.
    • Permits should not be allowed to utilize environmental safety as a cause to delay projects.
    • There are numerous recommendations about limiting the amount of time the EPA can veto a permit. The reason this was suggested is because the last permit was delayed after 3 years. That is far too long of time to issue a veto. Congress is currently looking over ways to implement this change to the EPA.
    • Further agenda will look to clarify the scope of jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and interpret navigable waters.

A good question posed by Democrats is why 13 vetoes are /2.5 million permits a cause for precedence and concern? Republicans responded that they do acknowledge 12 of them were under Republican presidencies, but are still political maneuvers none the less.

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