The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced in memo to stakeholders that the agency will begin making its own State Surface Water Determinations (SSWDs) in light of the uncertainty in permit approval resulting from the recent Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Sackett) decision. According to DEQ, this process will ensure that the Sackett decision does not hinder efficient processing of Virginia Water Protection permits.
In Sackett, the U.S. Supreme Court reduced the geographical limits of wetlands and streams regulated under the federal Clean Water Act. Despite uncertainty regarding what changes will be implemented at the federal level, Virginia’s comprehensive definition of “state waters” provides clarity on the geographical limits and type of wetlands and streams regulated at the state level in Virginia.
The agency says its move to make its own SSDW enables Virginia to restore certainty in the permitting process and allow projects to move forward in a timely manner, without the need to await a determination by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Balanced economic development and environmental protection are integrally linked,” said DEQ Director Michael Rolband. “We are doing everything possible to ensure that the Sackett decision does not harm Virginia’s growing economy or environment.”