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Subcommittee to Review Potential for States to Assume Lead Role in Wetlands Permit Program

September 19, 2012

Washington, DC – The Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), will examine on Thursday the potential for states to assume the lead role under the Clean Water Act dredge or fill (wetlands) permit program, also known as the section 404 permit program.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the basic responsibility for administering and enforcing most of the Clean Water Act (CWA), including the NPDES permit program under CWA section 402, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has lead responsibility for administering the section 404 wetlands permit program.

Under the wetlands permitting program, it is unlawful for a facility to discharge dredged or fill materials into a jurisdictional waterbody unless the discharge is authorized by and in compliance with a section 404 permit issued by the Corps. EPA does have the ability to veto section 404 permits; in fact, in 2011 the agency revoked such a permit it had previously approved, despite no violations of the permit’s terms.

The CWA does not contemplate a single, federally-led water quality program. Rather, Congress intended the states and EPA to implement the CWA as a federal-state partnership where the states and EPA act as co-regulators. Under the CWA, for example, 46 states have been authorized to implement and enforce NPDES permits. However, state assumption of the wetlands permit program has been limited to only two states, Michigan and New Jersey.

States have identified significant benefits of – and barriers to – state assumption in terms of overall program efficiency and water resource protection. On Thursday, the Subcommittee will hear from states that have expressed interest in assuming the 404 program, and from a state (Michigan) which assumed the program in 1984. The Subcommittee also will receive testimony from a former state regulator and representatives of EPA and the Corps.

More information on Wednesday’s hearing can be found here.

WHAT: Hearing of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Chairman:
“Forty Years after the Clean Water Act: Is It Time for the States to Implement Section 404 Permitting?”

WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Thursday, September 20, 2012

WHERE: 2253 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
A live webcast will be available here


Panel One
• Mr. David Paylor, Director, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, on behalf of Environmental Council of the States (ECOS)
• Mr. Jeff Littlejohn, P.E., Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs, Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection
• Mr. George Elmaraghy, Chief, Division of Surface Water, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, on behalf of Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM)
• Mr. William Creal, Chief, Water Resources Division, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, on behalf of Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA)
• Mr. Todd Ambs, President, River Network

Panel Two
• The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
• Ms. Denise Keehner, Director, Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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