Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the Trump administration for the 39th time last week, in this case to retain water-quality standards that the Washington Farm Bureau and other trade groups say will cost billions of dollars but won’t benefit the public.
Ferguson claimed the Environmental Protection Agency bowed to industries, including the Farm Bureau, when it rescinded the Clean Water Act protections set by the Obama EPA.
“Trump’s EPA cannot change important water-quality protections at the whim of industry interests,” Ferguson said in a written statement Friday. “We keep beating the Trump administration, and we haven’t lost yet. I don’t plan on starting now.”
The standards, commonly summarized as the fish-consumption rule, limit pollutants that can be discharged into water in Washington. The protections now backed by the Trump EPA were developed by Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration, but were mostly rejected by the Obama EPA.
The Farm Bureau and seven other organizations petitioned the Trump EPA to reverse course and accept Ecology’s standards. The Farm Bureau said it feared restrictions on industrial sites would trickle down to farmers. The Trump EPA granted the petition in May.
The Inslee administration proposed the standards, but has lashed out at the Trump EPA for accepting them.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, claims the EPA is not allowed to revise water-quality standards to make them less stringent.
“We won’t sit back while EPA unilaterally acts on short-sighted industry desires, completely cutting out the state regulator, Washington’s tribes and our communities,” Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a written statement.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on the pending litigation.
In 2016, Ecology proposed protections that would let a 176-pound person eat 6 ounces of fish every day for 70 years and increase their chances of getting cancer by one in 1 million.
At the time, Bellon said the standards were “protective and achievable” and would allow the state to eliminate toxics. Inslee was personally engaged in guiding the rule’s development, according to a letter Bellon sent to the EPA.
The Obama EPA accepted parts of Ecology’s rule, but rejected others and imposed standards that it said would protect tribal fishing rights. The Farm Bureau and its allies charged that the Obama EPA was a pursuing a political agenda.
Joining the Farm Bureau in the petition were the Northwest Pulp and Paper Association, American Forest and Paper Association, Association of Washington Business, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Treated Wood Council, Western Wood Preserves Institute and Utility Water Act Group.
Ferguson has notched 22 legal victories against the Trump administration, without a loss, according to his office. Some 13 of his victories have been related to environmental policies.