By Douglas Hook | December 18, 2020
On Thursday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general challenging President Donald J. Trump and his administration over the rollback of the federal Clean Water Act.
“This reckless regulation ignores common-sense and undisputable scientific evidence showing that this rollback will seriously degrade water quality in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Healey. “It will make it harder for states like ours to protect the water we drink and to preserve the health of the streams and wetlands that we rely on for recreation, agriculture, and wildlife habitats. We are urging the court to vacate this dangerous regulation.”
The Trump administration in 2019 announced the repeal of an Obama-era clean water regulation that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.
The regulation categorically excludes from the Act’s protections all ephemeral streams that flow in response to precipitation and all wetlands without specific types of surface-water connections to other waters.
Previous rollbacks focused heavily on eliminating restrictions on fossil fuel pollution, including coal-fired power plants, automobile tailpipes and methane emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under direction from the Trump administration also included removing restrictions on asbestos and chemicals like pesticides, although at a smaller capacity.
“Robust federal protections also serve to reinforce the state’s own strong water quality protection laws, including the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act and the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act,” read a statement from Healey’s office.
The Amicus brief, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by Healey, argues that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s reasoning to justify the rollback of regulations is contrary to the purpose of the Clean Water Act, restoring and maintaining the nation’s water quality.
The Clean Water Act was passed to protect downstream states from upstream states’ pollution and to prevent states from competing for economic development in a regulatory “race to the bottom.”
Attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, and the District of Columbia joined Healey in filing Thursday’s brief.
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