Attorney General Becerra Continues to Challenge Trump Administration’s Unlawful Assault on the Clean Water Act

Friday, December 18, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in support of a lawsuit by environmental organizations challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Attorney General Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James are currently leading a multistate coalition in a separate lawsuit challenging the rule in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In today’s amicus brief, the coalition argues that the rule conflicts with the Clean Water Act and harms the states. 

“Clean water is a fundamental right and one that we intend to fight for,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s why we filed our lawsuit in May challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful assault on the Clean Water Act – and that’s why we’re filing this brief.” 

The definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is critical to maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control and water quality protection that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding objective has not yet been achieved. Many of the nation’s waters fail to meet water quality standards. The 2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama Administration provided much-needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water Act protections. It specifically included within the scope of protected waters, the headwaters of rivers and creeks as well as other non-traditionally navigable waters, such as wetlands and ephemeral streams, which have significant impact on downstream water quality. 

The 2020 rule narrows the definition of “waters of the United States” to eliminate federal protections for many of California’s waterways, including waters that the state relies on for drinking water, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and recreation.

In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that the rule is unlawful and should be vacated because it

  • Is contrary to the Clean Water Act’s text, structure, and purpose to maintain and restore the integrity of the Nation’s waters; and
  • Will result in significant harms to the States—especially downstream States— due to reduced water quality protection nationwide.

Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the amicus brief. 

A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.

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