On June 22, 2011, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to advance legislation seeking to rebalance the relationship between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states in setting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA). H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, would reduce the EPA’s authority and transfer greater control to the states.
The bipartisan bill is an effort to amend the CWA and return responsibility for water pollution control to the states. The legislation would restrict the EPA’s ability to override or delay a state's permitting and water quality certification decisions under the CWA once the EPA has already approved a state's program, unless the state concurs that a new standard is necessary.
The bill would prohibit the EPA from withdrawing approval of a state water quality permitting program under CWA or from limiting federal financial assistance for the state water quality permitting program on the basis that the EPA disagrees with the state.
Not surprisingly, the EPA and number of environmental groups have taken an unfavorable stance toward the legislation. The EPA has voiced concerns with various provisions of the bill. In its legal analysis of H.R. 2018, the EPA stated the bill would undermine its mission and ability to ensure effective and appropriate standards to protect water quality requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The legislation is expected to be scheduled for a floor vote in the House this summer.