AG Ferguson sues Trump Administration over reversal of Wash. water quality protections

AG Ferguson sues Trump Administration over reversal of Wash. water quality protections
Washington Attorney General's Office
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

The Washington State Attorney General filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to revise Washington’s water quality standards.

These standards apply specifically to Washington and are used to determine how clean the state’s waters must be in order to protect human health.

According to a release, AG Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit argues that revising the standards now would create confusion and disrupt the work Washington has already completed to meet the standards. The AG’s Office said the revision is a violation of the Clean Water Act, which only allows the EPA to revise an existing standard if the standard is not stringent enough — which Ferugson claims is not the case with Washington’s existing standards.

“Clean water is essential to our quality of life,” Ferguson said in the release. “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.”

Officials from the Washington Department of Ecology agreed with Ferguson.

“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 Director Maia Bellon. “The Environmental Protection Agency has blatently 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.”

In 2016, the Washington Department of Ecology proposed updates to a portion of state water quality standards that establish limits on a range of nearly 200 pollutants dangerous to human health. Those pollutants include arsenic, asbestos, mercury and led.

In the release, the AG’s Office said the EPA revised the proposal and Washington began the process of implementing the standards.

According to the AG’s Office, the standards are intended to minimize the risk of cancer caused by consuming fish, shellfish and untreated water from state waterways. The pollutant limits are calculated with an equation that factors in how much fish or untreated water a Washingtonian might consume from state waters.

In February 2017, an industry group sent a petition requesting the EPA reconsider the rule. However, the industry group did not file a challenge in court. In May, the EPA announced it would grant the industry group’s request and revise Washington’s water quality standards. The AG Office’s said the revision was made without any evidence that the existing standards are insufficient.

The EPA then claimed it had “inherent authority” to make unilateral changes to its decision, despite the process outlined in the Clean Water Act.

Ferguson’s lawsuit argues there is no legal basis for the change and the reversal violates the Clean Water Act.

This is now the 39th lawsuit Ferguson has filed against the Trump Administration. Ferguson has won 22 cases and the others remain ative. Of the 22 legal wins, 13 are related to the environment and six include cases that specifically change actions by the EPA under the Trump Administration.

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