California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed his strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s illegal attempt to suspend for two years the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which would protect California’s lakes, rivers and streams from pollutants.
After seeking to repeal the Clean Water Rule earlier this year and receiving more than 680,000 comments in response, the Administration is now attempting to move forward with this suspension in order to both prevent the application of the Rule and to work on promulgating a less protective replacement in the meantime.
The Clean Water Rule was developed using a science-based approach to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” in the federal Clean Water Act. Federal law prohibits the discharge of pollutants into “waters of the United States.”
Becerra and 10 attorneys general filed their official comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.
Their comments underscore that the Trump Administration is violating the Administrative Procedure Act by attempting to render ineffective the Clean Water Rule without legal authority, as well as ignoring the factual findings supporting the Rule and failing to articulate a satisfactory reason for reinstating the pre-2015 definition of “waters of the United States.”
“It’s clear that the Trump Administration continues to operate as if it is above the law. It ignores the plain truth that the Clean Water Rule is the product of facts, science and extensive deliberation,” Becerra said.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher for California – if the Clean Water Rule is rolled back, many of our waterways may lose important federal safeguards,” he said. “The California Department of Justice won’t stand idly by and let that happen.”
The 2015 Clean Water Rule sought to address significant issues with the prior definition of “waters of the United States.” For decades, the pre-2015 definition had been interpreted differently by the courts, leading to confusion, unpredictability, and inconsistent application of the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Rule clarified the definition of “waters of the United States” to explicitly include waters in floodplains, riparian areas, and intermittent and ephemeral streams. This was an especially important development for the State of California, as the majority of California’s streams and rivers are intermittent or ephemeral.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in submitting comments were the attorneys general of New York, Hawai’i, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.