Carper Blasts EPA’s Decision to Undercut Waters and Wetlands Protection Under the Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement regarding the EPA’s announced changes to its oversight of discharges of dredged or fill materials under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“This decision is not only counterproductive and unnecessary – it’s reckless.  Congress gave EPA a tremendous responsibility under the Clean Water Act to stop, or substantially improve, dredge and fill projects that are destructive.  Administrator Pruitt wants to give away a veto power that ensures clean water and protects human health because that’s what industry wants him to do.

“EPA has used this veto authority for only the most unacceptable cases – to stop just 13 of the millions of activities permitted in the more than 40-year history of the Clean Water Act.  EPA is seeking to solve a problem that simply does not exist.

“Furthermore, Pruitt would require EPA regional administrators to get permission from DC headquarters before even beginning to review potentially destructive projects.  This is a startlingly hypocritical stance for a person who regularly derides Washington’s heavy-handed oversight of local decisions.  He proposes to undercut states’ and regions’ abilities to protect their residents from serious threats to their health and environment, and yet takes a backseat to his responsibility to carry out that very mission as administrator of EPA. Mr. Pruitt can’t have it both ways.

“This new plan makes very clear that it is more important to keep industry happy than it is to protect the health and well-being of Americans.”

On Wednesday, Senator Carper joined Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), top Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting information regarding the Administration’s unprecedented inaction on enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

In April, Senator Carper and Representative DeFazio wrote the EPA to express concerns over recent actions to strip EPA experts across the country of their authority to make important decisions about Clean Water Act protections.

EPA’s current regulations on the implementation of section 404(c) of the CWA allow the Agency to veto a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or an approved state that allows for the discharge of dredged or fill material at specified disposal sites. Administrator Pruitt’s proposed changes are as follows:


  • Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”
  • Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”
  • Requiring a Regional Administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.
  • Requiring a Regional Administrator to review and consider the findings of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the USACE or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.
  • Requiring EPA to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.