Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and 18 other state Attorneys General on Friday filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s new rule (“Navigable Waters Protection Rule”) redefining the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The rule continues the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to weaken water quality protections under the Clean Water Act and narrow the definition of “waters of the United States.” The rule removes protections for all streams, many wetlands, and other waters that were previously covered under the Clean Water Act.
“The EPA just gutted an important policy that impacts the quality of Oregon’s waterways and streams. As Oregonians, we pride ourselves on having some of the clearest and freshest waterways—and drinking water —in the United States. But with the stroke of a pen, President Trump has taken away important federal protections that help us regulate our own waters. We will keep fighting for clean waterways—for today, and for the generations to come,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.
The definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is critical to maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control and water quality protection that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding objective has not yet been obtained. The 2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama Administration provided much-needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water Act protections by specifically including within the scope of protected waters the headwaters of rivers and creeks as well as other non-traditionally navigable waters, which have significant impact on downstream water quality.
The 2020 rule narrows the definition of “waters of the United States” to eliminate federal protections for many of Oregon’s waterways, including waters that the state relies on for drinking water, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and recreation. In the lawsuit, the coalition highlights that exclusion of these waters directly harms environmentally friendly states by increasing the risk of pollution from less-protective jurisdictions; incentivizing polluters to relocate to states with less stringent water quality protections; and disrupting state regulatory programs.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.
The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) is led by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, and serves as the state’s law firm. The Oregon DOJ advocates for and protects all Oregonians, especially the most vulnerable, such as children and seniors.