Environmental Protection

1.1 Preamble

The nation’s governors are committed to protecting public health and conserving the environment for the American people. The future success of environmental protection and remediation efforts depends upon the continued successful implementation of programs at the state and local levels. To further the progress made to date, governors pledge to continue to promote environmentally sound policies within their state and work with Congress and the Administration on the development of new or revised federal environmental programs.

1.2 Water Resources

The primary responsibility for managing the nation’s vital water resources is properly vested with the states. The holistic approach utilized by many states that focuses on water supply, quality and conservation, public drinking water source protection, flood protection, flood plain management, land use and fish and wildlife resources protection is the best way to achieve water quality standards.

The role of the federal government should be to support state authority and efforts to achieve state water quality goals, including through the Clean Water Act. Further, the federal government should cooperate with states to establish water quality objectives, coordinate federal programs, provide technical and financial assistance, and support research and development. Any federal environmental program should be easily assumed and managed by states within available resources.

1.2.1    Principles

  • Governors support the reauthorization and continued support of the Drinking Water and Clean Water state revolving loan funds and the inclusion of greater flexibilities for states.
  • No new federal programs, such as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), created to finance water infrastructure projects should deny funding to proven tools already used by states to address their water needs.
  • Because federal water projects and related activities often affect water supply, flood protection, tourism, economic development and the environment, the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation should work closely with the states in which their projects are located and recognize that states have jurisdiction over the allocation and use of the natural flows that are affected by federal water projects.
  • Any new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards should include reasonable implementation schedules, adequate core funding, reasonable and integrated data management requirements, appropriate cost consideration and an appropriate state regulatory role in implementation.
  • States, with their local units of government, have and must maintain the primary responsibility for managing both groundwater and surface water resources, in partnership with and with funding assistance from, the federal government and federal regulations should not impede state and local policy approaches to improving water quality.
  • Effective solutions to water resource challenges require an integrated approach among states and with federal, tribal and local partners. Federal investments should assist states in implementing state water plans designed to provide water for municipal, rural, agricultural, industrial and habitat needs and should provide financial and technical support for development of watershed and river basin water management plans when requested by states.
  • Governors support initiatives that promote the following practices in response to drought and other natural disasters – the use of produced, reused and brackish water; management practices for forest health and soil stewardship; water use efficiency and conservation; and water infrastructure and investments.
  • Governors support the federal government water and wastewater treatment research, development and technology transfer, in support of state programs. The federal government is uniquely positioned to provide such support to many states, rather than each state being responsible for, potentially duplicative research, development and technology transfer.

1.3 Federal Permits

Federal and state regulatory regimes are intended to protect the nation’s environmental resources. Governors are committed to maintaining protections necessary to preserve our air, water and natural resources. With federal standards and objectives identified, there should be flexibility for and deference to nonfederal governments to develop their own plans to achieve them and to provide accountability.

1.3.1 Principles

  • Federal regulatory agencies should review their requirements, including those for the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act with those of state governments and promote coordination, eliminate duplication and defer to adequate state programs wherever possible.
  • Federal agencies should ensure that regulatory policy or guidance that will be used in permitting and other decision-making is developed in an open and transparent manner allowing all affected stakeholders input into the process and that such guidance does not supplant or change the existing federal rules and law upon which it is based. Consistent with EPA acknowledgement when they issue guidance, it is not legally binding and should not be used as the basis for making a federal objection to a delegated state action.

1.4 Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 with the dual purpose of preventing species extinction, and recovering species to the point that the protections of the ESA are no longer necessary. Governors are committed to ensuring vibrant wildlife populations for the benefit of future generations. Governors support the Endangered Species Act (ESA), when applied prudently, as a valuable tool for protecting imperiled species and call on Congress to improve and reauthorize the act.

1.4.1    Principles

  • The original intent and integrity of the ESA to recover listed species to the point where the protection of the act is no longer necessary should be maintained.
  • Efforts should be made to conserve species, which if successful, could preclude the need for listing under the ESA.
  • Consistent funding to states for species conservation, through a variety of sources such as the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program and others, is critical to preventing new federal listings of endangered species and should be encouraged.
  • Clear recovery goals and delisting or “downlisting” methodology should exist for listed species – recovered species should be delisted or downlisted when goals are met.
  • Judicial review of rules delisting or downlisting species should allow reasonable time for post- delisting or downlisting monitoring consistent with federal agency direction.
  • Federal regulatory flexibility to prioritize, review and make decisions on petitions should be improved.
  • State governments should play a significant role in recovering listed species.
  • ESA decisions should have strong scientific basis.
  • Incentives and funding for ESA related conservation and planning at state and local levels are essential, including but not limited to ESA Section 6 grants as well as technical assistance and incentives that encourage private landowners to engage in species and habitat conservation. They should be supported and improved.
  • Policy makers should explore means to incentivize non-litigation based solutions for ESA issues.
  • States should play a larger role in development and implementation of Section 4(d) rules or other mechanisms that promote species conservation.
  • Vague terms, such as “foreseeable future,” should be defined, replaced or eliminated. For example, climate change is increasingly being used as a determinant factor in the assessment of the need to list a species under the act. The ESA may not be equipped to address this potential global threat to species and habitat. The meaning of “foreseeable future” with the use of climate modeling is still undefined for effective management decisions related to implementation of the ESA.
  • When endorsed by appropriate federal authority, multi-state conservation plans that address listing factors and species viability – with sufficient resources and regulatory mechanisms – should be encouraged to preclude the need for listing.
  • The Endangered Species Act (ESA) should be reauthorized in a fashion that results in broad bipartisan support and maintains the intent of the ESA to effectively conserve and recover imperiled species.

1.5 Invasive Species

Invasive species are a non-native species whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species cost the US economy in excess of $120 billion in damage annually, damage ecosystems to the point where they contribute to more than 40 percent of the listings of native species under the Endangered Species Act and pose significant disease risks to wildlife and humans. The nation’s forests and rangelands, lakes and rivers, infrastructure and energy facilities, farms and recreation industry, human health and safety all face risks posed by invasive species. Governors recognize that invasive species problems are different from one region to another across the country, but nowhere do invasive species respect jurisdictional boundaries.  Governors are committed to-on-the-ground, cooperative efforts to address local and regional invasive species priorities. Governors call on the federal government to be an effective partner with the States in invasive species management.

1.5.1 Principles

  • The federal government should respect the role of states in managing and protecting their unique natural resources.
  • The federal government should work cooperatively with states and stakeholders to effectively prevent invasive species from entering the country.
  • Federal agencies should be a good neighbor, and not allow federal lands or waters to be a source of invasive species infestation to adjacent nonfederal areas.
  • Federal agencies should fund research to support eradicating and controlling invasive species that are priorities for the States.
  • The federal government should actively partner with States in supporting regional approaches to early detection and rapid response to invasive species outbreaks.


Time limited (effective Winter Meeting 2019 – Winter Meeting 2021). Adopted Winter Meeting 2019