In latest lawsuit, U.S. states take on Trump EPA for water rule rollback

by Reuters
Tuesday, 21 July 2020 18:00 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A waterway feeding into the San Jacinto River is riddled with trash after a flood in Kingwood, Houston, Texas, U.S., December 28, 2017. Photo taken December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

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The EPA altered the federal water law to make it impossible for a state to block a water permit for a project for any reason other than direct pollution into state waters

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) - California, New York and Washington on Tuesday filed a lawsuit with 17 other states against the Trump administration for undercutting their ability to deny permits for projects that could harm their waterways.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in the Northern District court of California against the Environmental Protection Agency, which last month finalized a rule limiting state powers to block energy infrastructure projects by curtailing their authority under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA altered section 401 of the federal water law to make it impossible for a state to block a water permit for a project for any reason other than direct pollution into state waters. States have previously weighed broader factors, such as climate change, to make decisions on projects.

"Once again, the Trump Administration is attempting to undermine the Clean Water Act – this time by limiting longstanding state authority to protect our waters from degradation tied to federally approved projects," Becerra said in a statement.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said last month the change would prevent states from holding "our nation's energy infrastructure projects hostage."

Wheeler and industry groups have been critical of New York for denying a water permit this year to allow a pipeline to deliver gas from nearby Pennsylvania to New York City.

Washington state denied a water permit in 2017, effectively blocking the construction of a coal export terminal.

In the lawsuit, the attorneys general argue that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act and Clean Water Act and must be vacated.

Tuesday's lawsuit marks the 50th time California has sued the Trump administration, Becerra's office said. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bernadette Baum)