A group of conservation organizations on April 29 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina, Charleston District, challenging the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which was published as a final rule on April 21. The rule would redefine what wetlands and streams qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. It is estimated that half of the nation’s wetlands and nearly 1/5th of its streams would lose Clean Water Act protection. The rule, which was jointly issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is to become effective June 22, 2020.
The suit was filed by the Southern Environmental law Center (SELC) on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups that includes the James River Association, an ABRA member. A similar lawsuit challenging the new law was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by another coalition of conservation organizations that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, also an ABRA member.
The lawsuit contends that the agencies’ wholesale stripping of protections was an unlawful departure from decades of bipartisan practice. Among other things, the agencies failed to explain or evaluate the impact of their actions on the nation’s water quality or give Americans a meaningful opportunity to comment on the elimination of scientifically based protections for streams and wetlands. The suit further argues that the challenged rule ignores the intent of the Clean Water Act, which a bipartisan Congress passed in 1972 because state-by-state efforts to clean the nation’s waters failed.