New Executive Order Would Limit States’ Rights to Protect Waterways

(Washington, D.C.)– President Trump’s executive order, issued today, changes the existing Clean Water Act’s 401 Water Quality Certification process that gives states the power to protect their waterways from federally licensed projects that could affect water quality.  Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, released the following statement on how the executive order would affect federal permits and the current process to relicense the Conowingo Dam:

“This executive order effectively hamstrings states from being able to protect their waterways and promote clean water. If implemented, the order would allow the federal government to effectively rubber stamp projects that would harm water quality, including pipelines and dam recertifications, and hamper states’ ability to install measures to reduce pollution.

Some states, including Maryland, in the case of the relicensing of Conowingo Dam, have been using their authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to protect their communities and waterways from harmful projects approved by the federal government. This executive order would tip the scales in favor of corporations applying for these permits and strip states of their ability to hold them accountable for the pollution they cause. For Conowingo Dam, Exelon would be able to operate the dam for the next 50 years without needing to take any measures to protect the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay from pollution. This is unacceptable, and we look forward to seeing this executive order overturned in court.”

Media Contact: Betsy Nicholas, betsy(at), Waterkeepers Chesapeake, 202-423-0504


Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of eighteen independent Waterkeeper programs working to make the local waterways of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable.