States, greens sue Trump over Obama EPA water rule delay
Ten Democratic states and a coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday for delaying enforcement of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule meant to protect waterways.
Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the challengers say EPA head Scott Pruitt violated required legal processes and ignored his legal obligation to protect water supplies when he pushed off the Clean Water Rule.
Pruitt last week finalized an action to delay the rule, also known as Waters of the United States, for two years. He is in the process of completely repealing and replacing it, but the delay ensures that it won’t take effect while that process is ongoing.
“Clean water is fundamental to New Yorkers’ health, environment, and economy,” Schneiderman said.
“The Trump administration’s suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, threatening New York’s decades-long efforts to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy water,” he said. “We will fight back against this reckless rollback and the Trump administration’s continued assault on our nation’s core public health and environmental protections.”
“The administration is pretending that pollution dumped upstream doesn’t flow downstream, but its plan puts the water used by hundreds of millions of Americans for drinking, bathing, cooking, and recreation at risk,” said Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“We are going to court to protect clean water across the country.”
The 2015 rule from the Obama administration asserted federal authority under the Clean Water Act over small waterways like wetlands and streams, in order to ensure federal government protections from pollution or other harms.
Republicans and industries like agriculture and developers ardently oppose the rule, saying it gives the government power over vast swaths of water and dry land.
The EPA shot back against the lawsuits, pointing out that the 2015 rule never went into effect.
“It’s worth noting that these lawsuits are over an embattled regulation that’s been put on hold by the courts to prevent it from taking effect,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “Our delay rule will keep in place that status quo.”
The states’ lawsuit was filed in the Manhattan-based District Court for the Southern District of New York. Some of the green groups filed suit in the Charleston-based District Court for the District of South Carolina, while others filed in the New York southern district.