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Press Release AG Healey Sues EPA, Army Corps of Engineers over Illegal Delay of Clean Water Protections

For immediate release:
2/07/2018
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Sues EPA, Army Corps of Engineers over Illegal Delay of Clean Water Protections

Chloe Gotsis

BostonAttorney General Maura Healey joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) over the agencies’ illegal two-year delay of the Clean Water Rule, a federal regulation designed to ensure the nation’s rivers, streams and wetlands are protected from pollution.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, follows the publication of a final regulation that suspends for two years the Clean Water Rule while the EPA and Army Corps continue with a longer-term effort to permanently repeal the Clean Water Rule and replace it with outdated regulations written 40 years ago.

“Nothing is more basic or fundamental than ensuring Massachusetts families and businesses have access to clean and safe water,” said AG Healey. “Suspending the Clean Water Rule and its critical protections poses a serious threat to public health, our environment, and our economy. My office is fighting this latest illegal and dangerous action by the Trump Administration.”

The Clean Water Rule seeks to ensure equal and consistent enforcement of antipollution laws regardless of state lines, and protects the quality of our nation’s water for, among other things, drinking, recreating, fishing, and hunting while simultaneously mitigating the risk of flooding and associated property loss that has become increasingly common due to climate-change induced extreme weather events.

The attorneys general argue in their lawsuit that the EPA and the Army Corps violated federal law when they suspended the Clean Water Rule by failing to consider the adverse impacts of repealing the Rule on public health and the environment, and by failing to afford the public with a meaningful opportunity to comment on the two-year repeal. The attorneys general point out that during the 21-day comment period, the federal agencies instructed the public not to comment substantively on the content, basis, or impact of efforts to replace the Rule with 40-year-old regulations for a two-year period. In the final regulation published today, the agencies also ignored their own prior conclusion that the outdated regulations were insufficient to protect the nation’s waters.

In 2015, the EPA and the Army Corps adopted the Clean Water Rule to clarify what types of waters are covered by – and thereby are afforded protection under – the Clean Water Act. As the attorneys general state in their suit, the 2015 Rule “rests on a massive factual record” and was developed through an extensive multi-year public outreach process that elicited over one million public comments, and was based on over 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating how many waters are connected by networks of tributaries, intermittent streams, and wetlands. The agencies also relied on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board’s independent review the peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the Rule.

Massachusetts was part of a coalition of seven states (New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia that intervened to defend the Rule in litigation challenging it in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has long supported an interpretation of the term “waters of the United States” that follows the scientific evidence, best achieving the Act’s central purpose as a means to reinforce Massachusetts’s own strong water quality protection laws, including the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act and the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act.

Joining AG Healey in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Seth Schofield and Special Assistant Attorney General Nora Chorover, each of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.

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Media Contact for AG Healey Sues EPA, Army Corps of Engineers over Illegal Delay of Clean Water Protections

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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