Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Take Action Login

Find Us On FacebookTwitter

Defend our Water & Our States’ Rights From Trump’s Dangerous Rollbacks!


Since Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972, Section 401 of the CWA has given states and authorized tribes the authority to grant, deny, or waive certification of proposed federal licenses or permits that could discharge into waters of the United States. This bedrock environmental protection in the US recognized the important role that states play in protecting water quality and delegated this power to the states to ensure that federally permitted projects adhere to state water quality standards.

The onslaught of fracked gas pipelines rubber-stamped by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), cutting through our watershed states and across the country at an alarming rate in recent years has underscored the vital importance of the states’ 401 authority to protect their streams and wetlands from devastating pollution and contamination and to check rogue agencies like FERC. Faced with unacceptable levels of pollution and degradation to their waterways, multiple states have exercised their 401 authority and denied Water Quality Certificates to harmful pipeline projects--including New York, Oregon, Minnesota.

This exercise of states’ rights to protect water resources has enraged both the fossil fuel industry and the Trump administration.  In reaction, Trump issued an Executive Order “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth” (April 10, 2019) ordering the EPA to rewrite regulations for implementing section 401 of the CWA so as to undermine and severely curtail the rights of the states to protect their waterways.

On August 22, 2019 EPA issued its proposed rollback of the Section 401 Water Quality Certification regulations.  If passed into law, these regulations will strip our streams, rivers, wetlands, waterways and communities of a last line of defense against devastating pipelines and industry, as well as unscrupulous politicians and regulatory agencies. And if allowed to stand, these regulations will demonstrate a flagrant disregard for one of the fundamental underpinnings of our nation: legal respect for the right and duty of states to protect their natural resources and communities from harm. 

We have until October 21 to submit comments to the EPA on the proposed regulations and to lay the groundwork for successful political and legal opposition.  We need to flood EPA with an outcry of opposition--grounded in the basic tenants of the law as written in the Clean Water Act and the Constitution--that they cannot ignore.

You have to submit your comments through the agency portal (provided at the "Submit your comments today" link below.

You can craft your own comments or use (in whole or part) the sample text and important points we provide below.  Simply copy the text, go to the "Submit your comments today link" and paste the text in.  Then add or change the comment as you see fit and submit. Whatever you do, please express your concern for this illegal power grab that undermines states rights and puts our environment and communities at risk. 

Submit your comments today.



The proposed regulations would illegally re-write Section 401 in violation of the plain language of the Clean Water Act. 

The Clean Water Act and Section 401 are very clear about the balance of power between state and federal entities, the discharges to be regulated, the limited role for federal agencies (including EPA) in the 401 certification process.  The proposed regulations massively constrict state authority and expand EPA and federal authority in contravention of Congress’ clear legislative intent.  This federal power grab is counter to the Clean Water Act’s balance of powers and is solely for the benefit of the shale gas industry. 

The proposed regulations would re-write statutory definitions (e.g. “discharge”), would limit states to reviewing only point source pollution, and would limit state compliance review to only a subset of standards specifically identified by EPA, or to EPA-approved Clean Water Act programs. 

Just because the fossil fuel industry and the Trump Administration do not like how states have used their Section 401authority when it comes to pipelines or other kinds of projects  doesn’t mean that the Clean Water Act is ambiguous or “missing” something that EPA can add.

These regulations are an illegal and unconstitutional re-write of the law that must be rejected.