Biden Administration Restores States’ and Tribes’ Power to Review Energy Projects That Could Pollute Waterways

aerial photograph of streams landscape

Under a final rule issued by the Biden Administration on Thursday, September 14, 2023, states and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects that could pollute rivers and streams.

The rule reverses the Trump administration’s January 2020 decision limiting states’ and tribes’ ability to review federally-regulated projects within their borders such as pipelines and dams. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated this new rule promotes a balance of local authorities’ abilities to better protect rivers and streams while still supporting infrastructure projects.

The new rule allows states and tribes to collaborate with federal agencies to determine the timeframe for review, with one year being the maximum. If local authorities and the federal agency do not agree on a timeline, the rule provides a six-month default deadline. Such changes help promote a more organized approach to the review process.

Radhika Fox of the EPA acknowledged that the new water rule will be significantly slimmer than originally proposed due to the Supreme Court’s recent Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency decision, which limited the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands.

The rule will take effect in November of this year.