Earthjustice, representing a number of environmental groups, sued EPA on Friday alleging that EPA is in violation of the Clean Water Act because it has not finalized the draft rule it published back in September that set water quality standards for toxics in Washington based on higher fish consumption rates. This lawsuit is not a surprise, because it came after the requisite 60-day notice was sent to EPA back in December. It is also not the first time this group of plaintiffs have sued EPA with respect to this issue, having done so more than two years ago. That lawsuit was dismissed on summary judgment.

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Yesterday, following quickly on the heels of Governor Inslee’s withdrawal of Washington’s version of the fish consumption rule, EPA released draft water quality standards for toxics for Washington. These standards, if adopted, are significantly more stringent than those Ecology had proposed.

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This is another in the series of guest posts authored by the consultants we work with and trust. Owen Reese is a Water Resources Engineer at Aspect Consulting approached us and offered to provide Aspect’s perspective on Ecology’s efforts to update its Water Quality Assessment for freshwater. We eagerly took Owen up on the offer because this work by Ecology has the potential to impact a number of dischargers throughout Washington State and fits well into Science Law and the Environment’s editorial goal of analyzing the intersection of science, law, and policy.

-Doug Steding

The Washington State Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) recently proposed updates to Washington’s Water Quality Assessment for freshwater, as required by sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the Clean Water Act. This list is important because it identifies which waters require water cleanup plans and could result in additional requirements for NPDES permit holders discharging to waters identified as impaired.

Ecology is seeking public comment until May 15, and is currently hosting a series of listening sessions to introduce the proposed changes in the Water Quality Assessment. The remaining sessions are: April 15 in Yakima, and April 16 in Spokane Valley. I attended the first session in Edmonds on April 7. This article summarizes my key takeaways from the presentations, with particular attention to potential effects to NPDES permittees.
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Governor Inslee has been busy since the end of the last legislative session laying out his environmental agenda, announcing his intent to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda back in April, and coupling the controversial fish consumption issue to an overall toxics reduction strategy.

Today marks the start of the legislative session. Here are five