Ferguson, Inslee

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, and Gov. Jay Inslee.

We can’t be the only ones left scratching our heads last week after Washington state officials criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for adopting water quality standards developed and endorsed by the state’s Department of Ecology.

The EPA now faces a potential lawsuit for ruling in favor of the state’s own water standard proposal.

To comply with the federal Clean Water Act, Ecology developed standards for nearly 200 pollutants.

The standards are distilled into the “fish consumption rule.” According to Ecology, people who ate 6 ounces of fish caught in Washington every day for 70 years would increase their chances of getting cancer by one in a million.

Ecology Director Maia Bellon at the time called the state-developed standards “strong yet reasonable.”

In 2016 the EPA, under President Obama, said Ecology’s proposal wasn’t protective enough for 143 pollutants. The EPA faulted Ecology for not using national standards based on how much of a pollutant a fish accumulates from sediment, prey and water. The EPA also cited tribal treaty rights in its decision.

At particular issue is the amount of PCBs allowed in fish. The state’s original standard was 170 parts per quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000), the EPA wanted 7 parts per quadrillion.

The Farm Bureau, Northwest Pulp and Paper Association, American Forest and Paper Association, Association of Washington Business, Greater Spokane Inc., Treated Wood Council, Western Wood Preservers Institute and Utility Water Act Group petitioned the EPA to change its decision.

In short, they asked the EPA to accept the “strong yet reasonable” protections set out by the state. Environmental groups and tribes had asked EPA to uphold its 2016 ruling.

Earlier this month the EPA reversed itself and ruled that the state’s standards were sufficiently protective.

The EPA says it has the right to reverse its own decisions and that it was returning Ecology to its role as the primary regulator of water quality in Washington.

How dare the EPA.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a joint statement accusing the Trump EPA of dismantling Washington’s water-quality standards.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Ferguson said he was “prepared to defend Washington state and our residents against overreach by EPA.

“As you are likely aware, my office has filed 10 lawsuits against EPA since January 2017. We are 5-0 in these cases,” Ferguson wrote.

We are sure that everyone, let alone the EPA, is aware that Ferguson and other Democrat attorneys general are always eager to sue the Trump administration. But to suggest the standards developed and proposed by the Inslee administration in 2016 now endanger Washington residents borders on sophistry.

But 2016 was a long time ago, in an era before Inslee was running for president on the environment and Ferguson had found the temerity to challenge the overreach of the federal government.

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