TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that New Jersey, as part of a coalition of 11 states, today filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) suspension of a rule that had significantly expanded federal clean water protections.
“The Trump Administration has taken a comprehensive, science-based rule designed to protect our most precious natural resource – clean water – and suspended it without authority to do so, and without observing proper procedures,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are glad to take part in the fight to halt this unlawful and harmful action.”
EPA introduced the original rule, known as the Clean Water Rule, in 2015. The rule clarified the broad sweep of the Clean Water Act, making sure to protect from pollution both large “navigable” bodies of water, such as bays, and the smaller bodies that flow into them – including rivers, streams and wetlands.
Environmentalists had welcomed the prior rule as one that provided much needed clarity on the reach of the Clean Water Act.
One of the first actions taken by the Trump Administration, however, was to begin the legal process of rescinding the rule and replacing it with language that weakened the Act’s protections. Last month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took the first step, filing to suspend the rule for two years pending the agency’s “reconsideration.”
With its suspension action, the Trump Administration is replacing the Clean Water Rule with confusing, nearly 40-year-old regulations that had been in place prior to the 2015 rule, the multi-state coalition contends. In its Complaint, the coalition explains that EPA acted without statutory authority and failed to follow proper procedure under the federal Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
Specifically, EPA acted outside its legal authority by moving to suspend the rule after its effective date, EPA failed to give the public enough time to comment on the suspension, and EPA never gave proper weight to its own, earlier factual and scientific findings.
The New York Attorney General filed the Complaint. In addition to New York and New Jersey, the coalition of states’ Attorneys General includes California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
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