Washington, D.C. (April 11, 2019) – The following is a statement from Linda Church Ciocci, CEO of the National Hydropower Association, on President Donald Trump’s executive order to improve the water quality certification program under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

“The National Hydropower Association (NHA) applauds and supports President Trump’s executive order today, which is aimed at improving the water quality certification program under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) – a key aspect of the hydropower licensing process. The President’s executive order will help protect our nation’s water resources by ensuring that the states meet the Congressionally mandated deadline for acting on applications for water quality certification.  Timely action by states, moreover, will help spur responsible development of the nation’s clean energy infrastructure, and particularly hydropower – America’s largest generator of renewable energy.

“As part of hydropower licensing, developers of a new project or operators of an existing facility must obtain a state-issued, CWA section 401 water quality certificate. While section 401 expressly dictates that states must act “within a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year)” to avoid waiver, over time Congress’ directive has been evaded through state directives for applicants to “withdraw and refile” their applications before the one-year deadline expires.  This practice, which was recently invalidated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC), has caused the licensing process to become protracted, more costly and highly unpredictable, which puts the economic viability of hydropower projects at risk.

“Most importantly, the very environmental protections and enhancements that would occur as a result of timely state water quality certification, together with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license, get delayed year after year, in a seemingly endless loop. President Trump’s executive order does not roll back environmental protections of the CWA.  It directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with the states, industry, and other stakeholders in determining best practices for meeting the public’s interest in obtaining water quality certification within the time period established by Congress.

“At its core, President Trump has sent a clear message today that it is no longer acceptable for our nation’s vital hydropower projects to linger in uncertainty for years – at times, a decade or more – without resolution.  A more efficient and effective licensing process can be achieved without sacrificing critical natural resource protections.

“The executive order also underscores the tremendous importance of protecting and advancing hydropower as our nation’s premier renewable resource that offers unmatched resiliency and reliability to the grid.

“As EPA works to implement the President’s executive order, NHA looks forward to working with our partners within federal and state resource agencies and the environmental community to forge solutions that advance the dual goals of administrative efficiency and environmental stewardship.”