Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for repealing the Clean Water Act. This legal fight between the EPA and Washington state concerns over the EPA’s decision to “revise Washington’s water quality standards,” which ultimately determine the cleanliness of the state’s water to protect human health, a press release from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General said.
“Clean water is essential to our quality of life,” Ferguson said. “Trump’s EPA cannot change important water quality protections at the whim of industry interests. It’s not only disruptive to Washington’s environmental efforts over the past two years, it’s a clear violation of the Clean Water Act. We keep beating the Trump Administration in court, and we haven’t lost yet. I don’t plan on starting now.”
The lawsuit argues that changing standards would “create confusion and disrupt the work Washington has already completed to meet the standards, violate the Clean Water Act, and federal law. Under the current law, the EPA only has the authority to change the standards if its not “stringent,” which the AG said is not the case in Washington state.
“The Clean Water Act is crystal clear on when it’s appropriate to change water quality standards in a state, and how it must be done,” Maia Bellon, Washington Department of Ecology director, said. “The Environmental Protection Agency has blatantly ignored this federal law. We won’t sit back while EPA unilaterally acts on short-sighted industry desires, completely cutting out the state regulator, Washington’s tribes and our communities.”
While Washington Department of Ecology updated its water quality standards to put a limit on 200 pollutants that are a danger to human health, the EPA revised the state’s proposal and Washington started to implement the new standards in 2016. But come 2017, an industry group filed a “petition” with the EPA against Washington’s water quality standards and in May the EPA sided with the industry group claiming “inherent authority” to make unilateral changes to its decisions and “revise Washington’s water quality standards without any evidence that the existing standards are insufficient,” the press release reported.
With the current standards already being implemented by numerous state businesses and municipalities, “reversing course on the standards now would cause unnecessary confusion for businesses and government agencies, and invalidate an implementation process that is already two and a half years down the road.”
Both Ferguson and Bellon have written letters to the EPA, yet received no response from the federal government.
According to the press release, “Ferguson has now filed 39 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson has 22 legal victories against the federal government since President Trump assumed office. Twelve of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other 10, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns. Of the 22 victories, 13 are related to the environment and six are from cases that specifically challenge actions by President Trump’s EPA.”