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Washington Department of Ecology Intervenes in Lawsuit Seeking to Compel EPA to Adopt Revised Water Quality Standards for Washington

Posted in Clean Water Act, Emerging Policy, Environmental Risk, Fish Consumption, Water Quality

Not surprisingly, on Tuesday, Ecology intervened in the lawsuit filed in October by a group of environmental organizations seeking to compel EPA to promulgate revised water quality standards for toxics in Washington that integrate a higher fish consumption rate.

The motion to intervene is available here. It is opposed by the plaintiffs in this case, but nonetheless, I fully expect the court to grant the motion. In reading it, I was struck by a couple of statements:

1) Ecology clearly states that it “does not believe the EPA Administrator has made the requiste finding to trigger EPA’s responsibility to develop water quality standards for the state of Washington.” This is, as I’ve discussed previously, the core of this suit–and I tend to agree with Ecology on this point.

2) Ecology makes a parallel point that “Defendants (i.e., EPA) have not been intimately involved in the work Ecology has done, and is continuing to do, to revise Washington’s fish consumption rate and human health water quality standards.” This point builds on a major theme of the motion to intervene that the responsibility to promulgate water quality standards is one that is delegated to a state under the Clean Water Act, and one where it is appropriate for the state to take the lead–which Ecology repeatedly points out it is doing with respect to fish consumption and water quality criteria for toxics.

We’ll see if others intervene. I wouldn’t be surprised if trade groups or organizations consider doing so to protect their interests–as I believe Ecology’s ultimate rulemaking process should lead to a more pragmatic and workable rule than one that is foisted upon the state if the plaintiffs in this matter are successful.