- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Trump Administration Over Rollback of State Authority to Protect Water Quality
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its final rule restricting state authority to ensure federally permitted projects comply with state water quality standards.
In a lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the attorneys general allege that a final rule issued by EPA on July 13 arbitrarily re-writes water quality certification regulations and rolls back the authority of states to review, impose conditions on, or deny certification for federally permitted projects. By impeding this state authority granted under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, the final rule drastically limits states’ ability to fulfil their obligations to protect their waters and wetlands, undermining four decades of successful cooperation between the federal government and the states.
“Once again, President Trump is rolling back critical environmental protections to line the pockets of his friends in polluting industries,” AG Healey said. “We are suing because this rule is an illegal assault on the rights of states to protect our water quality and public health.”
The Clean Water Act reflects Congress’ policy to “recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution” of waters within their borders. Under Section 401 of the statute, a project requiring federal approval that may result in discharges into the waters of the United States must obtain state certification confirming that the project meets state water quality standards and other appropriate state law requirements. The projects requiring Section 401 certification range from pipeline construction and hydropower to infrastructure and commercial land development. This certification process ensures adequate assessment of the impacts of proposed projects and the imposition of conditions necessary to avoid or remedy these impacts.
According to the lawsuit, the final rule violates the purpose, structure, and legislative history of the Clean Water Act, including Congress’ longstanding preservation of states’ authority to protect water quality within their borders. The lawsuit also argues that the rule violates EPA’s own guidance on Section 401, which has recognized that authority over the course of multiple decades and administrations.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has long supported and defended the ability of states to regulate water quality. Robust federal protections also serve to reinforce the state’s own strong water quality protection laws, including the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act and the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act.
Joining AG Healey in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, New York, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Ireland and Turner Smith, both of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, are handling this matter for Massachusetts.