Expanding the Definition of “United States Waters” to Address Environmental Justice and Climate Change
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a multi-state coalition by submitting a comment letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to stop enforcing a recently released Trump. era rule redefining “United States waters” under the Clean Water Act. The coalition, which includes 18 state attorneys general, as well as New York City and the California State Water Resources Control Board, is also calling on agencies to resume enforcement of the 1980s regulatory definition and swiftly pass a new one. more protective definition. Under the Trump administration’s 2020 rule, more than half of all wetlands and at least 18% of all waterways have been left without federal protection. Western states like California have been hit even harder, with 35% of all waterways deprived of federal protections due to the region’s dry climate. As the West grapples with worsening drought conditions, the coalition argues that it is essential that the EPA and the Army Corps not only restore previous protections for these waterways, but develop a more new definition. broad which addresses climate change and environmental justice.
“California relies on our waterways to support our communities, our economy and our biodiversity” said Attorney General Bonta. “The point is: we are living in precarious times, as severe weather events such as droughts become more and more frequent. We need strong protections in place to make sure our waterways are not under the brunt of these changes. It is essential that the Biden administration stop enforcing the illegal Trump-era rule and expand the waters protected under the Clean Water Act to meet the realities of today and tomorrow.
The definition of “United States waters” under the Clean Water Act is essential to maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has resulted in dramatic improvements in water quality in the United States, its overarching goal has yet to be met. Many of the country’s waters remain polluted.
The 2020 rule has made the Clean Water Act goals even more out of reach, threatening entire watersheds, including 4.8 million kilometers of watercourses and 16.3 million acres of unregulated wetlands. floodable. In May 2020, a California-New York-led coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the illegal rule. Earlier this week, in a separate lawsuit filed by environmental groups and several tribes, the Arizona District overturned the 2020 rule. Today’s coalition is urging the EPA and the Army Corps to comply with the order to rescind the illegal WOTUS definition of the Trump era, apply the more protective regulatory definition of the 1980s and develop a broad science-based definition of “United States waters”, protect water quality and integrity in accordance with the Clean Water Act and takes into account concerns related to climate change and environmental justice.
All Americans have a right to clean drinking water for drinking, recreation, and countless other uses that support our lives and economic activities, but many of the most vulnerable and already overburdened communities still lack access to it. this fundamental resource. The new definition should strive to eliminate these inequalities. It must also be based on taking into account the consequences of climate change. The quality and quantity of water continue to change due to more frequent, severe and unpredictable weather events. Western states have experienced and are currently experiencing unprecedented drought conditions. Attorneys General are urging the EPA and the Army Corps to take these concerns into consideration as they work to quickly develop and finalize a new definition of “United States waters.”
Attorneys General Bonta and James are joined by the California State Water Resources Control Board, along with Attorneys General from Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico , North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont. , Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the City of New York by filing the letter of comment.
A copy of the letter is available here.