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AG Nessel Intervenes in Lawsuit to Defend States’ Rights to Protect Water Quality in Federal Projects

LANSING Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general, led by the State of Washington, in filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule that revised a Trump-era rule that unlawfully curtailed state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. 

“The Trump administration wrongfully attempted to cut states out of safeguarding our water quality in federal projects, despite a clear responsibility to do so by Congressional directive under the Clean Water Act. Since taking office, President Biden has worked to restore the states’ abilities to protect our natural resources,” Nessel said. “Protecting Michigan’s water is a vital interest and duty of the State, and I proudly support the federal government’s efforts to recognize the importance of these crucial states’ rights, and will defend them from these legal challenges alongside my colleagues.” 

The Clean Water Act reflects Congress' policy to "recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution" of waters within their borders in partnership with the federal government. Under Section 401 of the statute, a project requiring federal approval that may result in discharges into waters of the United States must obtain state certification confirming that the project meets state water quality standards and other appropriate state law requirements.   

In 2019, Nessel was part of a coalition that opposed the Trump-era rule changes when they were first proposed, and in July of 2020 Nessel and the coalition of states filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA's final rule. Most recently, in August 2021, Nessel and the coalition of states submitted a comment supporting the EPA’s reversal of these unlawful rules, restoring state’s lawful authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. 

Joining Attorney General Nessel in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.


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