Court Throws Out Trump’s Gift to the Fossil Fuel Industry
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tribes and States Take Back Clean Water Authority:
Federal court decision strikes down Trump era Clean Water Act regulation
October 22, 2021 (San Francisco, Calif.)—Late Thursday, a federal court in California vacated Trump era regulations that undermined the ability of tribes and states to protect their waters from pollution. While the Biden Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to reconsider the Trump Clean Water Act rules, it wanted to leave the invalid regulations in place for at least two years. At the urging of states, tribes, and numerous environmental groups, the court agreed that EPA could reconsider the rules and ordered the Trump rules vacated immediately.
“The court’s order recognizes and stops the harm caused by the Trump regulations,” said Michael Youhana, an Earthjustice attorney for tribal and environmental group plaintiffs. “This is a major win for supporters of state and tribal sovereignty and environmental protection.”
“Clean Water Act Section 401 allows states like Oregon and Washington to block dangerous projects that harm waterways and salmon,” said Lauren Goldberg, Legal and Program Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “When Oregon leaders denied the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, they used section 401. When Washington leaders denied the Millennium coal export terminal, they used section 401. States and tribes need the Clean Water Act’s power to protect water, period.”
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Chairwoman Janet Davis said: “We now look forward to working with EPA to enact regulations that respect the tribes’ and states’ authority to protect water quality and prevent water pollution.”
“The Northern District of California preserved states and Tribes long held authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to protect water quality from projects that could negatively impact treaty fishing rights,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. “Today’s ruling ensures that states and tribes can continue to use Section 401 certification to protect our shared waters for the benefit of the salmon and other marine life, including the endangered orca whales, for future generations.”
“Communities have a legal right to protect their clean water,” said Kelly Sheehan Martin, Senior Director of Energy Campaigns at the Sierra Club. “This decision reverses a Trump administration effort that eroded states’ and tribes’ ability to protect their waterways from polluting industrial projects. We will continue to ensure that people–not the fossil fuel industry–have the final say on the future of water quality in their communities.”
The Suquamish Tribe (Washington), Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (Nevada), Orutsararmiut Native Council (Alaska), Columbia Riverkeeper, and Sierra Club, were represented by Earthjustice.
BREAKING VICTORY: Court Throws Out Trump’s Gift to the Fossil Fuel Industry
Great news! In a major victory, a federal court threw out the Trump-era rules that restricted Tribal Nations and states’ rights to stop dirty fossil fuel developments.
The legal victory restores a critical tool to protect clean water and our climate.
To stand up to the fossil fuel industry, we need strong legal hooks. One of the best: Clean Water Act Section 401 allows states like Oregon and Washington to block dangerous projects that harm waterways or salmon.
When Oregon leaders denied the massive fracked gas Bradwood Landing and Jordan Cove LNG terminals, they used section 401. When Washington leaders denied the Millennium coal export terminal, they used section 401.
In 2020, we joined a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration’s latest gift to the fossil fuel industry. With a sweep of the pen, President Trump changed the rules to limit Tribal Nations and states’ powers to block new fossil fuel terminals and pipelines. This was a huge problem for clean water—and our climate.
We’re honored to join the Suquamish Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Orutsararmiut Native Council, and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, in suing to overturn this dangerous rule.
Wondering about the Biden administration EPA’s position? While EPA agreed the Trump-era rule had “substantial” legal flaws, the agency asked the court to keep the rules in place until spring 2023. Unacceptable. We joined Tribes, states, and nonprofits in pushing back. And the court agreed.
I am proud that Columbia Riverkeeper has been at the epicenter of a movement to stop fossil fuel terminals. Our region has been so successful that the fossil fuel industry tried to rewrite the laws.
Thank you for powering legal victories to uphold critical environmental laws. You are making a difference.
There is no fighting for a clean and healthy environment without fighting for social and racial justice.