House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Mica, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Rahall, D-W.V., have introduced HR 2018, which would prevent EPA from overriding state decisions regarding implementation plans for water quality programs. The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011’s purpose is to restore the long-standing relationship between states and EPA as co-regulators under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The CWA does not contemplate a single federal water quality program. Instead, it sets up a system whereby states can receive EPA approval to implement water quality programs under state law, in lieu of federal implementation. These states are called “authorized states.” The CWA also does not establish uniform national water quality standards. Instead, under the Act, states establish water quality standards for the water bodies in that state and EPA has the authority to approve or disapprove the state standard. However, once EPA has approved a state standard, its implementation/interpretation is left to the state.
The sponsors of HR 2018 introduced this legislation amid concerns that EPA had exceeded its role as the approver of programs/standards and attempted, instead, to directly implement water quality programs in approved states. The bill would limit EPA’s ability to override approved state standards and permits.