Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel, AGs file suit against EPA for limiting state authority over environmental projects

By: - July 24, 2020 1:27 pm

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) | Getty Images

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday that she has joined yet another multi-state lawsuit, this time challenging a President Trump administration rule that curtails state authority under a longstanding federal statute.

The suit alleges that a rule finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 13, as directed by an April 2019 executive order from Trump, unlawfully strips states of their ability to review, change or deny federal project permits from being issued if the project would be in violation of the state’s water quality standards.

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act has provided this authority to states for many decades and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court several times. The EPA’s new rule prevents states from having this kind of say in federal projects, potentially hindering their ability to prevent environmental harm.

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Nessel joins attorneys general from 19 other states, the District of Columbia and the California State Water Resources Control Board  in bringing the lawsuit. It was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

“No one has a more significant interest in the quality of the water and wetlands in this state than those who call it home,” Nessel said in a statement. “The EPA’s final rule strips Michiganders of the ability to participate in a process that is ultimately intended to protect the health of our families, the vitality of our communities and the safety of our environment.

“Decisions about the well-being of Michigan’s residents shouldn’t be made behind closed doors in Washington, D.C.,” Nessel added.

Nessel and other AGs had previously submitted a comment letter in October opposing the rules, which were still in draft form at the time.

Other states participating in the lawsuit include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).