State AGs challenging Trump administration effort to redefine Clean Water Act rule

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A multistate coalition is challenging a new rule proposed by the Trump administration on its way out the door that would leave more than half of all wetlands and 20 percent of all streams without federal protections.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined the coalition in filing a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging the administration’s final rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

The group argues that the rule is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the text and primary objective of the Clean Water Act, and should be vacated.

“Redefining ‘waters of the United States’ will have a detrimental effect on waters across the country,” Herring said. “The Trump administration has made it no secret that keeping water and air clean is not a priority and this rule change is just yet another way that they are shirking their responsibility to protect the environment. The Clean Water Act has made significant improvements in the health of our waters, but this rule change will reverse that progress, by making our waters dirtier and unhealthy.”

The definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is critical to maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control and water quality protection that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding objective has not yet been achieved.

Many of the nation’s waters fail to meet water quality standards. The 2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama administration provided much-needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water Act protections. It specifically included within the scope of protected waters, the headwaters of rivers and creeks as well as other non-traditionally navigable waters, such as wetlands and ephemeral streams, which have significant impact on downstream water quality.

The 2020 rule narrows the definition of “waters of the United States” to eliminate federal protections for many waterways, including waters that states rely on for drinking water, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and recreation.


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