Blue States Sue Feds Over Trump Rollback of Obama Waters of the U.S. Rule
A coalition sued the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) on December 20, 2019 over the rollback of the Obama 2015 Waters of the U.S. (“WOTUS”) rule. The coalition included the states of New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, the commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the City of New York.
The 2015 WOTUS rule expanded thedefinition and scope for which bodies of water constitute a “water of the U.S.”, and therefore fall under federal regulation. President Trump and the EPA announced in September 2019 that the 2015 WOTUS Rule would be repealed effective December 23, 2019. In its place, the more modes 1986 standards would apply until a new replacement rule is promulgated in early 2020.
The coalition argues that returning to the 1986 standards ignores studies showing how small bodies of water connect with and impact larger bodies of water which are regulated under the Clean Water Act. According to the states, the rollback reverses “decades of progress” made toward fighting water pollution. Additionally, they say the rule fails to meet the objectives of the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain water quality. However, the suit largely relies on procedural grounds stating the rollback rule does not meet the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.
At this time, it is unclear if this lawsuit will impact implementation of the new rule.