In a move that favors greater state influence over permitting for natural gas pipelines, a California federal judge has vacated a Trump-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule designed to streamline Clean Water Act (CWA) approvals.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, on Thursday vacated a rule finalized last year that established limits on state authority over CWA Section 401 decisions. 

The changes under the Trump administration had aimed to prevent indefinite delays to infrastructure projects cleared by agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission..

Responding to legal challenges brought by states, tribes and conservation groups, Alsup ordered that the Trump-era rule be vacated and remanded back to the EPA. The EPA, for its part, had asked the court to remand the rule without vacating it.

EPA officials under President Biden had already signaled their intent to revise the former  administration’s rule in favor of bolstering state and tribal influence over the CWA Section 401 process.

“In light of the lack of reasoned decisionmaking and apparent errors in the rule’s scope of certification, the indications that the rule contravenes the structure and purpose of the Clean Water Act, and that EPA itself has signaled it could not or will not adopt the same rule upon remand, significant doubt exists that EPA correctly promulgated the rule,” Alsup wrote of the Trump-era rule.

Alsup also found that plaintiffs challenging the Trump EPA changes showed that “significant environmental harms will likely transpire” with the rule left in place. The potential harms to the environment outweigh the “disruptive economic consequences” of vacating the rule, and the economic harms further “do not outweigh the significant doubts that EPA correctly promulgated” the rule, the judge wrote.

The Section 401 rule marks the latest Trump administration environmental rollback to get the ax since President Biden took office.The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona last month vacated a 2020 rule that sought a narrowed definition for “waters of the United States,” or what waterbodies fall under CWA jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Congress in June voted to restore Obama-era controls on methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector that had been partially rescinded by Trump’s EPA.