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Rep. Duarte’s Bill Aiming To Reduce Federal Regulations On Clean Water Act Passes In House

Duarte, who represents Merced County in Congressional District 13, said last month that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System often includes language that provides loopholes for groups to sue and block permits for critical energy and other infrastructure improvements.

U.S. Rep. John Duarte (R-CA) and House Republicans want the Biden administration to reform the Clean Water Act’s permitting processes to increase transparency on water protections while reducing regulations lodged against domestic energy producers.

Duarte, who represents Merced County in Congressional District 13, said last month that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System often includes language that provides loopholes for groups to sue and block permits for critical energy and other infrastructure improvements.

But now that the House of Representatives has passed the “Confidence in Clean Water Permits Act,” Duarte and other GOP reps introduced, he says his initiatives will fix inconsistencies to improve U.S. waters and ensure permit writers provide more transparency about the regulations for permit holders.

“My provision closes those loopholes and limits opportunities for unwarranted lawsuits, codifying previously longstanding practices at the EPA to shield permit holders from liability, as long as they’ve acted in good faith and according to the terms of their permit,” Duarte said in a news release.

Duarte’s efforts come as he faces Democratic challenger Adam Gray in a heated rematch for one of California’s key seats in the lower chamber of Congress. The first-term Republican, who was a former businessman and farmer, says that regulatory certainty and legal protection for permit holders are necessary for improving our Valley’s water infrastructure.

Among a wide range of changes, the bill would block EPA officials from vetoing lawmakers’ amendments to Section 404 of the federal law governing water pollution, which would reduce red tape from regulatory provisions relating to nationwide permits for dredged or fill material.

Lawmakers say the bill would also add transparency and stakeholder participation in the development of water quality standards.

It also combines five separate bills that had been introduced in the House earlier this year, one of the nation’s largest construction trade associations praised as “the best and most comprehensive federal regulatory permitting and project review reform legislation “in a letter to all House members last month.

“ABC believes that this bill, if enacted, will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary delays that cause budget overruns in construction,” the Associated Builders and Contractors wrote in a March 19 letter. “Creating a coordinated, predictable and transparent process to streamline permitting will enable the industry to plan and execute even the most complex projects while safeguarding our communities, maintaining a healthy environment and being good stewards of public funds.”

Opponents of the bill say it would undermine the ability of federal agencies to maintain clean water resources by allowing industry producers to pollute the water without permits while limiting community stakeholders to legally stop projects deemed harmful.  

“It takes a hatchet to EPA’s ability to protect our wetlands, streams, and waterways from pollution while enabling industry to discharge contaminants into drinking water sources with impunity,” Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Julián Gonzalez said in a news release. “It would fast-track permits for notoriously harmful infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines while silencing the ability of communities to speak out against dangerous threats to water resources and public health.”

However, House Republicans say the reforms would only reduce burdensome regulatory requirements and offer protections against lawsuits to help end the Biden administration’s war on American energy and unleash American energy dominance.

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