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Lawsuits & Litigation

Nearly Half the Country is Suing Trump Over New Water Rules

— July 22, 2020

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of rolling back states’ rights to manage their own water resources.

Twenty-one attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over new rules restricting states’ ability to protect their water resources.

“Once again, the Trump Administration is attempting to undermine the Clean Water Act,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in announcing the sui, “this time by limiting longstanding state authority to protect our waters from degradation to federally approved projects.”

According to The Associated Press, the rules were issued last week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new policy bars states from reviewing, blocking, or otherwise impacting the implementation of federal water projects, presenting a sharp divergence from nearly thirty years of precedent.

President Donald Trump has insisted that the federal government be permitted to pursue its water projects unimpeded. In April 2019, he signed an executive order that makes it substantially more difficult for states to block pipelines and other construction with the potential to endanger water resources and quality.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said that handing off more authority to the federal government could have grave environmental consequences.

California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office is playing a critical role in the lawsuit. Image via Office of Attorney General Xavier Becerra/Wikimedia Commons. Listed as public domain.

“This rule is an unprecedented assault on the right and obligation of every state to protect our waters,” Inslee said.

Becerra further suggested that the White House is trying to aide fossil fuel companies at states’ expense.

“The Trump administration wants to clear the deck for fossil fuel infrastructure,” Becerra said. “By reducing the scope and time [for review], they make it very difficult for states to fully protect the rights that they have to protect the water that is in their boundaries.”

Becerra said the EPA’s revised guidance would not only allow the administration to pursue pipeline projects with less resistance, but could limit states’ review of hydroelectric projects, housing, and commercial land development.

However, the agency itself has insisted that its policies were outdated, not having been updated in close to a half-century.

The updated rule, says the EPA, “reflects the first comprehensive analysis of the text, structure and legislative history” of sections of the Clean Water Act.

“As a result, the agency’s final rule increase the transparency and efficiency of the […] certification process in order to promote the timely review of infrastructure projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for drinking and recreation,” the EPA said in a statement.

Last month, the EPA came under fire for passing additional guidance restricting the scope of the Clean Water Act. In June, two Wisconsin Native American tribes, along with a coalition of environmental advocacy groups, sued the Trump administration for “drastically” decreasing the number of waterways protected under federal law.

Critics of the administration have claimed—as LegalReader’s reported before—that the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Trump, has pivoted away from its core mission of environmental protection and has instead begun focusing on deregulation.


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