Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, along with ten other state attorneys general, initiated legal action on Tuesday by filing a lawsuit against a rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This rule, implemented by the Biden administration, introduces extensive and unlawful modifications to federal regulations governing water quality certifications issued by states. The legal challenge contends that the Biden administration’s rule, enacted in 2023, overturns reforms instituted by President Trump, which aimed to bring clarity and consistency to the certification process. The lawsuit asserts that the EPA’s rule obstructs the progress of crucial infrastructure and energy projects, including pipelines, natural gas plants, hydropower, and renewable energy initiatives.
This legal action, marking Attorney General Knudsen’s 35th lawsuit against the Biden administration, seeks to nullify the 2023 Water Quality Certification Rule and prevent the EPA from enforcing it. The objective is to reinstate the reforms implemented during the Trump era.
Attorney General Knudsen expressed concern that the Biden administration’s rule undermines the Clean Water Act, defying congressional intent and exceeding its authorized jurisdiction. He emphasized his commitment to challenging policies that adversely affect the citizens of Montana.
The president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Todd O’Hair, commended Attorney General Knudsen for advocating on behalf of Montana businesses. O’Hair highlighted the potential negative impact of the EPA’s new rule on industries in Montana, citing shortened timelines, onerous requirements, and a lack of clarity that could divert business attention towards regulatory battles rather than economic participation.
The legal dispute revolves around Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which mandates that if a federal license or permit could result in discharge into navigable waters, the applicant must obtain water quality certification from the relevant state. The lawsuit argues that the Biden administration’s rule disregards procedural abuses addressed by the Trump administration in 2020, removing safeguards and enabling states to impede critical infrastructure development.
The legal challenge, led by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, has additional plaintiffs, including the American Petroleum Institute, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and the National Hydropower Association. The lawsuit alleges that the 2023 Water Quality Certification Rule is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of EPA discretion, exceeds statutory authority, and is otherwise contrary to the law.