HELENA, Mont. — Nine environmental conservation groups have joined the surge of states and businesses suing the federal government over a new water regulation.
Attorneys from Stanford University and Lewis and Clark Law School filed the nonprofit organizations' challenge Wednesday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The groups based in California, New York, Arizona, Montana and Washington, D.C., claim a new rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers that clarifies which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act removes safeguards for water used for drinking, recreation, fisheries and wildlife. They say the rule impedes on their ability to use, enjoy and preserve water.
The EPA has said the new "Waters of the U.S." rule, which answers a call from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress to clarify which waterways are protected, aims to safeguard drinking water. The environmental organizations argue it does the opposite by only protecting small bodies of water if they're within 4,000 feet of certain streams or rivers.
"They're trying to establish a bright line, and the bright line is too limited," said Adam Keats, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the Center for Food Safety.
The rule is so narrow, Keats said, that it could allow chemical pollutants to enter agricultural and water supply systems.
"Look, if you're polluting the water, you're polluting the water," Keats said. "It doesn't matter if you're 1,000 feet away or 4,000 feet away. That's the problem."
At least 27 states, 14 national agriculture and land organizations, the Pacific Legal Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Businesses have filed complaints in federal Districts Courts around the country since the rule was published June 29.
"There's confusion, actually, whether this is a Circuit Court case or a District Court case, and the rule says as much," said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at one of the plaintiff groups, the Center for Biological Diversity.
His and the eight other environmental organizations will file a longer version of their challenge in District Court, Hartl said, after an August lottery decides the subject's jurisdiction.