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Ecology objects to EPA’s attempt to roll back clean water rule in Washington

Today, April 10, 2019 the Washington Department of Ecology is notifying the public that it appears the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to reverse the clean water rule in Washington state. EPA’s 30-day comment period began April 8, 2019, without notification to Ecology, tribes, or the public.

“I’m shocked EPA did not engage with Washington before moving to change the clean water rule. This is a blatant violation of the principles of cooperative federalism and states’ rights,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “I am also very concerned EPA failed to consult with Washington’s federally recognized tribes, disregarding federal trust and treaty obligations.”

As of today, EPA has not shared with Ecology any information on their proposal to reverse the current clean water rule in Washington. This rule establishes water quality standards for lakes, rivers, and marine waters to protect the health of people and fish, and to manage pollution caused by industries and municipalities. The current rule, which became known as the fish consumption rule, was finalized for Washington in 2016 after extensive public processes.

“For more than two and a half years, we’ve worked with communities, tribes, local governments, and businesses to implement the clean water rule. We fully expect any actions EPA takes now to reverse course will result in costly litigation that benefits no one,” said Bellon. “It is unnecessary and counterproductive to create this atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty – we already have a path forward that will lead to protective and practical clean water permits.”

Ecology has communicated with EPA in recent months that the state opposes any actions that would delay or prevent Washington from continuing to implement the clean water rule.

Ecology intends to submit formal comments by May 8, 2019, opposing any federal actions to reverse the 2016 clean water rule.

The EPA memo is available on the regulations.gov website.

Learn more about the clean water rule in Washington.

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