The Boeing Co. sided Friday with the Washington Farm Bureau and other industry groups, arguing in a court brief that water-quality standards pushed by the Washington Department of Ecology are unattainable.
The aerospace company, the state's largest private-sector employer, filed the brief in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeking to influence the outcome of a lawsuit between Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency.
At stake are pollution limits Ecology uses in issuing permits to release wastewater. Boeing has roughly 20 permits and warns that Ecology is seeking standards that will halt industrial growth in Washington.
The Farm Bureau has intervened in the lawsuit, warning that if Ecology wins its members will face increased regulations.
Boeing chided Ecology for repudiating water-quality standards the agency itself developed, but were rejected by the Obama administration's EPA in 2016. The Trump EPA reversed the decision last year, finding Ecology was right and that the Obama EPA had erred.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson reacted by suing Trump for the 39th time, alleging his administration caved to industry whims. Ecology and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee support the suit.
In its brief, Boeing said it's "crystal clear" that the case is about Ecology attacking its own standards.
"The court should not mistake the case for anything other than a refusal of Ecology to accept a decision from EPA, even when that decision approved Ecology's own proposed standards," the brief states.
Besides the irony of Ecology opposing standards it developed, Boeing's brief focuses on PCBs, chemicals banned by the EPA in 1979, but which persist in the environment.
"Ecology is now fighting for a PCB standard that cannot be reliably measured and cannot be achieved," according to Boeing.
Boeing said it supported Ecology's 2016 proposal to limit PCBs in water bodies to 170 parts per quadrillion.
At the time, Ecology said the standard would protect people who eat fish and shellfish from Washington waters, including tribal members who eat large amounts of fish over their lifetime.
The Obama EPA, however, mandated a PCB limit of 7 ppq, an amount Boeing compared to sticking seven postage stamps on a land mass the size of Washington and Oregon.
The attorney general's office argues in a court document that Boeing's brief just states the company's preference for a PCB standard, but doesn't address whether the Trump EPA lawfully reversed the Obama EPA's decision.
The Northwest Pulp and Paper Association, Forest and Paper Association, Western Wood Preservers Institute and Treated Wood Council joined the Farm Bureau in intervening in the lawsuit to support the Trump EPA.
The Sauk-Suiatte Indian Tribe and Quinault Indian Nation intervened to support Ecology. The Obama EPA said Ecology's 2016 standards did not protect tribal treaty rights.
The Trump EPA said the former administration should not have linked treaty rights and the Clean Water Act.
Boeing has not joined the suit, but was allowed to file a brief stating its position.
Ferguson has now sued the Trump administration 67 times.