A coalition of 11 attorneys general filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday challenging the Trump administration’s suspension of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
The group includes California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal andNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The attorneys general claim the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Administrative Procedures Act in suspending the Obama-era rule. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“The California Department of Justice will not spectate as this Administration attempts to undo yet another critical environmental protection. We will do what is necessary to defend the Clean Water Rule and our right to clean water,” Becerra said in a statement.
The 2015 rule expanded the definition of waters granting certain protections under the Clean Water Act. President Donald Trump issued an executive order last year directing the EPA to review the regulation, also known as the Waters of the United States rule. Administrator Scott Pruitt began that process last week, suspending implementation of the rule for two years via a suspension rule that became effective Tuesday.
The suspension came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled late last month that legal challenges to the WOTUS rule must be filed in federal district courts, and not in federal appellate courts. The decision nullified a Sixth Circuit injunction against the rule that had been in place since 2015.
“It’s worth noting that these lawsuits are over an embattled regulation that’s been put on hold by the courts to prevent it from taking effect,” an EPA representative said. “Our delay rule will keep in place that status quo.”
In their lawsuit, the attorneys general claim the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Water Act to suspend the 2015 rule, that the agency did not provide a “meaningful opportunity” for public comment on the new suspension rule, and that its promulgation was arbitrary and capricious.
“The Clean Water Rule protected the States’ environmental interests by strengthening and clarifying CWA protections of waters within the States’ jurisdictions and by helping to ensure that polluted water from other states did not flow into their waters,” the lawsuit said. “The Suspension Rule harms the States’ waters by limiting the Act’s protections and by making implementation of the Act more difficult. The Suspension Rule also imposes economic burdens and costs upon the States and harms their proprietary interests.”