OLYMPIA — The leader of the state Department of Ecology claims that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to reverse the state’s clean water rule.
Ecology Director Maia Bell on Wednesday said the EPA’s 30-day comment period began April 8 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,” Bellon said. “This is a blatant violation of the principles of cooperative federalism and states’ rights. I am also very concerned EPA failed to consult with Washington’s federally recognized tribes, disregarding federal trust and treaty obligations.”
As of Wednesday, EPA had not shared with Ecology any information on their proposal to reverse the current clean water rule in Washington.
The 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, according to Bellon.
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,” said Bellon. “We fully expect any actions EPA takes now to reverse course will result in costly litigation that benefits no one. 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.