Waterkeeper Alliance says EPA’s action to delay requirements is illegal
Environmental and health organizations and concerned citizens from throughout the nation came to Washington D.C. to speak at a public hearing held by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday on its proposal to indefinitely delay the requirements of a 2015 rule limiting water pollution from coal power plants (known as the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines, ELG rule). In April 2017, Scott Pruitt’s EPA announced that it would be reconsidering the rule in response to coal-fired power plant industry concerns about the requirements.
“The Trump administration is resorting to increasingly absurd and illegal tactics to elevate the most powerful polluters above the law,” said Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Pete Harrison. “It’s encouraging to see so many people come to Washington to demand protections for their water, even in the face of this administration’s wanton disregard for the safety of the American people.”
Representatives from six Waterkeeper Organizations spoke about the impacts of water pollution from coal-fired power plants on their waterways and the communities that rely on them for drinking water, jobs, and recreation. Of the approximately 50 people that provided testimony, some expressed disbelief that the agency tasked with protecting the health of our environment and public would turn its back on the communities impacted by wastewater pollution from coal-fired power plants. Health organizations highlighted the severe human health impacts from mercury, arsenic, bromides and other toxins discharged by these plants.
“After so carefully documenting the harms of coal ash pollutants and making sure it’s affordable for coal plants to meet the standards required by the ELG rule, it is absurd for the EPA to now reverse course,” says Harrison.
Only three representatives from electric utilities came and voiced their support of the delay, stating that, in light of EPA’s decision to reconsider the rule, they did not want to make pollutant reductions to meet requirements that may be undone by Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
In his testimony, Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. countered the utilities’ claims that making these investments would cause harm, comparing the harm to industry profits to the lasting developmental harm that mercury has on children. He also questioned the basis for EPA’s hearing, stating: “This hearing is illegal. I know the Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act backwards and forwards. Nothing in there gives you authority to suspend a rule. There has already been a rulemaking that gave us the limits that EPA is now trying to destroy.”
EPA is expected to finalize their decision on delaying the requirements of the ELG rule in August. Waterkeeper Alliance is prepared to challenge EPA in court if it continues this process of rolling back crucial water protections.