The single most powerful authority that states have under the Clean Water Act is under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states the authority to issue water quality certifications for federally licensed projects like pipelines and dams. The EPA has proposed a new rule that would strip authority away from states and tribes to fully protect their local streams and rivers from these major projects. The bottom line is the EPA is making a federal power-grab to benefit powerful fossil fuels and utility interests.
Here, in the Chesapeake Bay, a bill (HB 1128) has been introduced to guarantee that Maryland retains – and uses — the authority it is entitled to under the Clean Water Act. At the beginning of the 2020 session of the Maryland General Assembly, Delegate Jim Gilchrist introduced the 401 Water Quality Certification Improvement Act that would ensure Maryland’s ability to thoroughly review and analyze all the proposed water pollution impacts from any given federally-licensed project that may affect Maryland waterways. Furthermore, the bill puts the burden to identify, quantify, and evaluate all associated pollution impacts where it belongs, on the project developer.
In addition, the bill prevents the state from waiving its 401 water quality certification authority, like it did recently in its settlement agreement with the owner of the Conowingo Dam.
Take action today in support of Maryland authority under the Clean Water Act! The bill will be heard in the House Environment & Transportation Committee on Friday, February 28th. Our local communities and waterways need to be protected from unchecked development by fossil fuels and utility interests.