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Litigation

U.S. EPA to revise Trump water rule in boost to states’ climate fight

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EPA Administrator Michael Regan delivers remarks on American Economic Recovery at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S., April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it will revise a rule issued by the former Trump administration nearly a year ago that limited state powers to use the federal clean water permitting process to block energy infrastructure projects amid concerns about climate change.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Thursday said the agency will revise the 2020 Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Certification Rule issued by his predecessor Andrew Wheeler in June 2020 after deciding that it eroded state and Tribal authority to protect their water resources.

“We have serious water challenges to address as a nation and as EPA Administrator, I will not hesitate to correct decisions that weakened the authority of states and Tribes to protect their waters,” said Regan said.

The Trump administration was focused on fast tracking big energy projects and had set its sights on the Section 401 permitting process because it allowed states like New York, New Jersey and Washington to block major pipeline, coal export terminals and other projects they felt would lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Trump rule made it impossible for a state to block a water permit for a project for any reason other than direct pollution into state waters. It will also set a one-year deadline for states to approve projects. At the time, Wheeler said states could no longer use section 401 to block projects citing climate change concerns.

The 2020 rule, however, will remain in place as the EPA creates a public stakeholder comment period and hosts sustained dialogue with state and Tribal regulators and governments.

California, New York, Washington and 17 other U.S. states had sued the Trump administration over that rule.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici Editing by Marguerita Choy

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