Section 401 certification is a part of the federal Clean Water Act that allows states to have a role in ensuring that Minnesota projects that require permits from federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will meet the state’s water quality standards. Pipelines and mines are some of the projects affected by federal permitting and 401 certification. In some cases, Minnesota’s water quality standards are more stringent than federal standards, so it’s critical that we have input on federal permitting that affects Minnesota waters.
The EPA is now proposing sweeping changes to 401 certification. “Some of the provisions that are proposed would significantly undermine the state’s ability to [protect] water quality within the state,” says Katrina Kessler, MPCA Assistant Commissioner.
For instance, the EPA is proposing that Section 401 certification be issued on a short timeline. For some projects, that might mean the certification is issued before all the science is in and before environmental review is completed. The states would be forced to makes decisions on projects without sufficient information on what impact the projects would have on the environment.
The MPCA is concerned that the proposed changes “really undermines the state’s ability to be in the driver’s seat and be the leader in terms of protecting local resources,” Kessler says. Click on the video to learn more. Visit the EPA web site to see the proposed rule and to submit comments. The comment period ends October 21, 2019.