OLYMPIA - Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to revise Washington’s water quality standards.
Ferguson filed the lawsuit on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and said the revisions made by the Environmental Protection Agency violate the Clean Water Act and argued the EPA under the Trump Administration cannot change water quality protections at the interest of industry companies.
The water quality standards are only applied to the State of Washington and are used to regulate how clean waters in the state must be to protect the health of humans.
In 2016, Washington State put forward new updates which were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency during President Barack Obama's presidency.
An industry group which included paper companies and the Washington Farm Bureau opposed the changes and asked the EPA to review the rules the state proposed.
The EPA accepted the argument from industry companies and announced the changes in May.
"In February 2017, an industry group sent a “petition” requesting the EPA reconsider the rule. The industry group did not file a challenge in court, the proper way to challenge federal agency decisions. In May of this year, more than two years later, EPA announced its decision to grant the industry group’s request and revise Washington’s water quality standards without any evidence that the existing standards are insufficient," the Attorney General's office stated.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the move by the EPA is a clear violation of the Clean Water Act.
“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, but it’s also 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.”
Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon said the Environmental Protection Agency is blatantly ignoring the federal law.
“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,” said Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “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.”
Ferguson and Bellon reportedly write letters to the EPA, strongly opposing the revised changes. The lawsuit states the federal government allegedly did not respond to the letters and the EPA did consult with Bellon, Ferguson or tribal governments regarding the changes.
The lawsuit seeks action by the court to block the Environmental Protection Agency from revising the water quality standards.