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Hearing Highlights Need to Improve Project Permitting Processes While Maintaining Critical Water Protections

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 16, 2023 (Investorideas.com Newswire) Today, water industry representatives and state level stakeholders testified at a hearing on the future of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its role in the completion of critical infrastructure projects. Today's hearing was led by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC), whose opening remarks can be found here.

North Dakota Department of Water Resources Director Dr. Andrea Travnicek spoke about the importance of federal-state partnerships to achieving the goals of the CWA, as well as how the inconsistent application of requirements and permitting delays can have negative environmental impacts as well as make it difficult to complete infrastructure projects in a timely manner. Travnicek testimony highlights:

  • "Intrusive federal regulation may have unintended consequences that are harmful to the environment. The new WOTUS [waters of the United States] rule would also result in additional costly evaluations to determine Section 404 permitting requirements for underground pipelines being built in the state. Pipelines may need to be rerouted with excessive reengineering costs, permitting delays, or perhaps canceled altogether. This could impact pipelines needed to transport natural gas to reduce flaring and meet the state's target of reaching 98-100% gas capture and 0% routine flaring by 2030… The rule would also impact the ability to construct the thousands of miles of pipelines needed to transport carbon dioxide to meet national carbon capture and storage goals.
  • "Section 404 permitting delays are especially harmful in North Dakota, due to our short construction season. A loss of one construction season carries through the entire infrastructure program resulting in cumulative increased trucking and the associated environmental impacts to air quality.
  • "In addition to rescinding the new WOTUS rule, one solution to ease overly stringent federal permitting requirements would be to adopt state specific regional conditions for the Corps' Nationwide Permit 12, which applies to oil and gas pipelines, and Nationwide Permit 58, which applies to any linear utility line… Another area for improvement would be to have more consistent application of Section 404 permitting requirements by Corps staff and to address staffing issues at the agency that exacerbate permitting delays."

National Association of Manufacturers Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Brandon Farris testified on the need for project streamlining reforms and the removal of onerous federal regulations to ensure that transportation infrastructure projects are completed in an efficient manner and that the supply chain is not further damaged. Farris testimony highlights:

  • "Manufacturers depend on access to reliable and affordable energy to expand, which is why we support reforms that would foster transparent, streamlined and timely federal regulatory processes for the siting, permitting and licensing of energy delivery infrastructure of all types. … manufacturers do not believe that expanded domestic energy production, strong environmental protections and a thriving economy are mutually exclusive goals. Permitting reform can help achieve these goals in tandem.
  • "Our industry depends on access to our nation's plentiful natural resources, and we believe that all processes involving them should be done in an environmentally sound and responsible manner. However, some restrictions on the development of these resources are hindering our ability to strengthen domestic supply chains and making our industry more reliant on raw material imports. The inconsistent administration of critical mineral policies, for example, has limited our ability to use a wide range of resources that exist on and beneath federal lands—resources that are critical to producing everything from cars to medical devices.
  • "The Environmental Protection Agency is taking an aggressive approach toward tightening regulations in several environmental statutes. Unfortunately, these proposed regulatory changes are not based on the best available science, often setting standards at or below limits of detection, making compliance technically infeasible… If instead we make the process more predictable and consolidate the many complex layers of review, the U.S. can continue to build on its strong record of environmental stewardship by boosting domestic manufacturing, which is environmentally cleaner than our international competitors."

Mickey Conway, CEO, Metro Water Recovery, Denver, Colorado, on behalf of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, emphasized that federal requirements for obtaining necessary permits should be developed transparently and be easy to understand and follow. Conway testimony highlights:

  • "As utilities face complex and costly infrastructure challenges over the next 50 years, it is critical that the limits imposed in [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] NPDES permits be based on the best available science and a complete record, not political whim or expedience. The reforms under consideration could help ensure this happens.
  • "And while tackling these challenges is of vital importance to the long-term health and vitality of the communities we serve, it is every bit as pressing that we do so in a way that keeps rates affordable for everyone. NACWA members are stewards not only of the environment, but also of public funds; we must plan for the future while not overburdening our ratepayers today, particularly those in small, rural, and disadvantaged communities."
  • "Public clean water agencies are proud of the water quality advancements they have made in the first 50 years of the Clean Water Act's implementation. If adopted, these reforms would give utilities the ability to do even more by helping to ensure that, over the next 50 years, the Clean Water Act continues to protect those we are tasked to protect - our local community residents.
  • "Due to the volume of wastewater and stormwater public clean water agencies manage and treat, infrastructure improvements needed to meet increasingly stringent Clean Water Act requirements often entail long-term financial and technical planning, as well as large-scale - and frequently disruptive - construction projects. It is therefore critical that requirements in utility NPDES permits be developed transparently, that a utility's Clean Water Act obligations be clearly outlined in those permits, and that a utility be able to rely on those permits for the entire length of their term."

Click here for more information about the hearing, including video and witness testimony.

CONTACT: Justin Harclerode for the groups at (202) 225-9446 or Patrick Mitchell for NACWA at pmitchell@bannerpublicaffairs.com or (202) 441-7647.

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