By Laina G. Stebbins
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined 22 other state attorneys general in opposing a proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which they say would unlawfully hinder states’ abilities to protect water quality.
In the comment letter filed last week, the attorneys general cite “grave concerns” that the President Trump administration EPA’s proposed regulation update for water quality certifications would “unlawfully curtail state authority” provided under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act since its enactment half a century ago. As it stands now, section 401 of the Clean Water Act authorizes states to stop a federal project permit from being issued if the project would be in violation of the state’s water quality standards.
The proposed rule from the EPA would purportedly authorize federal agencies to disregard state-issued denials and conditions on certification applications, narrow the scope of state certification authority, restrict state conditions on Section 401 certifications and restrict the timing and scope of state review of certification applications. All actions would be in conflict with the Clean Water Act’s current language.
The 23-state comment letter challenges the EPA’s decision, arguing that it not only fails to consider any water-quality related factors, but also fails to analyze the effects of the proposed rule on the states or explain why it is changing its position from prior regulations and guidance in the first place.
In addition to Shapiro, the comment letter was signed by attorneys general from The comment letter was signed by the attorneys general of Michigan, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Like his Democratic colleagues nationwide, Shapiro has been active in pursuing litigation against the Republican White House.
In September, Shapiro joined with other attorneys general to sue the administration over its planned rollback of the Endangered Species Act, which could harm 13 endangered species and their habitats in Pennsylvania, according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service tally. Nationwide, other species that could be impacted include the Monarch butterfly, moose, grizzly bears, American wolverine, Pacific walrus and Canadian lynx.
Laina Nessel is a reporter for the Michigan Advance, a sister site of the Capital-Star, where this story first appeared. Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed to this story.