The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports on a multi-state lawsuit to protect the country’s waterways:
A coalition of states is suing the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its so-called “dirty water rule,” which eliminates legal protections for hundreds of thousands of streams, creeks and wetlands across the country.
The lawsuit claims that the Trump administration’s new rule contradicts the 1972 Clean Water Act, supreme court precedent and the EPA’s own scientific findings. Trump’s “navigable waters protection rule”, which was published in January, narrows the definition of waterways to exclude ephemeral streams, wetlands, creeks and other headwaters which do not have visible water 365 days a year because they run intermittently or temporarily underground. For example, 90% of streams that connect to the Colorado river, which supplies water to seven western US states and two in northern Mexico, run only after rainfall or snowmelt.
The rule, which has attracted widespread criticism from scientists, environmentalists, and the tourism sector, replaces an Obama era regulation that strengthened protection for about 60% of the nation’s interconnected waterways. But it goes much further than just repealing Obama’s 2015 rule, by allowing landowners and developers to dump directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.
“Access to clean water is a fundamental right for all Americans. Trump’s dirty water rule ignores the law and science and is a reckless rollback of clean water protections … which benefits industry polluters and harms countless Americans,” said Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, at a virtual press conference today.
The lawsuit argues that the new rule will result in more pollution, flooding, and harm to fish and wildlife across the country — undermining decades of work to protect and enhance water resources – and will result in widespread economic losses.
“We’re going into this fight with our three most reliable allies: the facts, science and the law,” said Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general. In California, more than 40% of streams and half of all wetlands have been stripped of protection under the new definition, said Becerra. “Even during the coronavirus pandemic, the administration hasn’t stopped.” He added, “The latest actions come at a time when the nation’s health and economy can least afford it.”
The lawsuit, co-led by New York and Califnronia, was filed today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Also suing are the attorneys generals of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the City of New York.