Waterkeeper Alliance today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenging the Trump administration’s recent rollback of the Clean Water Act effluent limitations guidelines and standards for steam electric power plants, which are the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States. Joining us as co-petitioners in the lawsuit are Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, NRDC, and the Center for Biological Diversity; these petitioners are represented by Earthjustice. Additional co-petitioners include Environmental Integrity Project, PennEnvironment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Prairie Rivers Network; these petitioners are represented by the Environmental Integrity Project.
Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a separate petition challenging the rollback rule, representing Good Stewards of Rockingham (parent organization of Dan Riverkeeper), Winyah Rivers Alliance (parent organization of Lumber and Waccamaw Riverkeepers), Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Appalachian Voices.
EPA’s 2015 Steam Electric Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG rule) issued by the Obama administration required power plants to install technology to treat wastewater so that far lower levels of pollutants would be released into waterways. Despite EPA’s extensive research demonstrating that meeting the 2015 standards would be cost-effective for power plants, industry balked at making the needed investments and petitioned the Trump administration to delay and weaken the rule.
Under the Trump administration, EPA substantially weakened the ELG rule, increasing toxic pollutant discharge limits, pushing back compliance deadlines for certain types of coal ash waste streams, and weakening or eliminating all requirements for broad categories of coal-fired power plants.
These moves came despite a federal appeals court ruling last year in a case brought by Waterkeeper Alliance and partners that the 2015 ELG rule was too lenient.
“The Trump administration’s rollback is yet another example of this administration valuing polluters over people and wildlife,” said Waterkeeper Alliance general counsel and advocacy director Daniel E. Estrin. “Rolling back the ELG rule will not make the costs associated with toxic pollution disappear—it just pushes costs from the power plant companies onto the public, hurting peoples’ health and contaminating their waters.”