As California Records Driest Year in a Century, Attorney General Bonta Secures District Court Decision Restoring State’s Clean Water Act Authority

Friday, October 22, 2021
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today secured a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that vacates a Trump-era rule that unlawfully curtailed state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. For nearly five decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consistently acknowledged and respected that Section 401 provides states with the broad authority to approve, impose conditions on, or deny certification for federally permitted projects in order to ensure these projects comply with state laws. After the Trump Administration promulgated a rule restricting this state authority, California, Washington, and New York led a multistate coalition in a lawsuit challenging the rule. 

“As the state records its driest year in nearly a century, Californians are acutely aware of the value of water and its critical importance to sustaining our communities, ecosystems, and agriculture,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We're pleased that the District Court agreed to vacate this unlawful Trump-era rule and restore California’s authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. State agencies rely on Section 401 to safeguard our precious resources by ensuring that federal projects meet the state's robust water quality requirements.”

In today’s decision, the District Court vacated the rule, highlighting the rule’s numerous deficiencies, including the illegal narrowing of the scope of state certifications, the lack of reasoned agency decisionmaking, and that the rule contravenes the structure and purpose of the Clean Water Act. The court's decision vacating the rule will avoid the significant environmental harms that would have resulted if the rule remained in effect.  

A copy of the decision can be found here.

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