The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will revise a 2020 final rule clarifying requirements for water quality certification under the Clean Water Act (CWA). 85 Fed. Reg. 42210 (June 2, 2021). CWA Section 401 requires states and tribes to certify that any discharges associated with a federal permit will comply with applicable state or tribal water quality requirements.
In an effort to eliminate 401 certification being used as a tool for delaying or imposing conditions unrelated to protecting water quality on federal permits, the 2020 rule established limits on the scope and timeline for review and required any conditions on certification to be water-quality related. State and Tribal governments and environmental groups challenged the rule, arguing it constrained state and tribal decision-making authority by limiting the term “other appropriate requirements of State law” in CWA Section 401(d) to “water quality requirements” and “point source discharges.”
With EPA’s decision to revise the rule, many believe these same scope and timing limitations will be targets for change. Clients with experience, positive or negative, under the 2020 rule should consider submitting comments by the August 2, 2021 deadline.