New EPA Guidance Will Hopefully End Abuse of Clean Water Act

News Release June 07, 2019

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) commended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). 

“The water quality certification process has been abused by states to block natural gas pipelines needed to provide safe, affordable and reliable service to millions of Americans that want it,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. “It is our hope that EPA’s balanced approach in its new guidance will end this practice while also protecting water quality as Congress intended.” 

In a press release today, EPA said its recommendations are aimed at clarifying and streamlining the 401 certification process to promote greater investment in and certainty for national infrastructure projects while continuing to protect local water quality. Under Executive Order 13868, “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth,” EPA was directed to issue guidance for federal permitting agencies and state and authorized tribal authorities to modernize previous guidance and clarify existing clean CWA Section 401 requirements. 

Harbert praised Executive Order 13868 saying it would, “clear the way for development of new natural gas pipelines, enabling greater access to natural gas thereby benefitting American families and our environment.” 

According to the EPA, “Section 401 of the CWA provides states and authorized tribes with an important tool to help protect water quality within their borders in collaboration with federal agencies. The rules governing this authority have not been updated in nearly 50 years. In addition, evolving case law and EPA’s outdated guidance have caused some confusion and resulted in delays in certain infrastructure projects with potentially significant national benefits.” 

“When states say ‘no’ to the development of natural gas pipelines, they force utilities to curb safe and affordable service and refuse access to new customers including new businesses. Limiting access and choice for Americans - driving up costs and emissions in the process - is simply bad policy,” Harbert stated in April.

The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 76 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 73 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than thirty percent of the United States' energy needs.