EPA Rescinds Previous Administration’s Guidance on Clean Water Act Permit Requirements

Sept. 21, 2021

The Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision has been rescinded.

The U.S. EPA is rescinding “Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program.”

This guidance document was issued by the Trump administration on Jan. 14, 2021, reported EPA. The reason for this decision, according to EPA, is preserving longstanding clean water protections.

This action will also help protect water quality in lakes, streams, wetlands, and other water bodies. According to EPA, the agency will work with state permitting agencies and the regulated community to implement the Supreme Court’s decision in the County of Maui.

“Using the tools provided by the Clean Water Act, EPA is committed to ensuring that all communities across America have clean and safe water,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox in the EPA press release. “Under President Biden’s Executive Order, EPA reviewed the last Administration’s Maui guidance and found that it was inconsistent with EPA’s authority to limit pollution discharges to our waters.”

The previous Administration’s Maui guidance reduced clean water protections by allowing some groundwater to be regulated under the CWA through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The reason for rescinding this guidance, according to EPA, occurred upon determining that this additional factor is inconsistent with the Clean Water Act and the Supreme Court decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

According to EPA, The Office of Water is evaluating appropriate next steps and evaluations to determine whether a discharge from a point source through groundwater that reaches jurisdictional surface water requires a permit under the CWA. 

More information can be found here.

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Cristina Tuser