Attorney General Cuomo Sues Bush Epa Over Water Pollution Loophole That Threatens Nys Waterways And Drinking Water

NEW YORK, NY (October 2, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is fighting an illegal ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that could hurt New York’s fishing industry and contaminate drinking water.  Cuomo is leading a coalition of nine states in suing the EPA for creating an illegal loophole in the federal Clean Water Act by refusing to control the transfer of polluted water from one water body to another.

The introduction of polluted water to another water body causes a host of environmental problems, from harming critical fishing streams to spreading invasive species in the Great Lakes; courts have held that these water transfers require regulation under the Clean Water Act.  Despite court rulings, on June 9, 2008, the EPA issued a regulation exempting water transfers from the Clean Water Act’s requirements.

“The Bush EPA continues to create environmental loopholes that will degrade New York’s waterways, prevent fishermen and others from enjoying our streams, and put the Great Lakes at risk,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Some of New York’s most prized water bodies – including the Long Island Sound, Lake Champlain, and the Hudson River – could be harmed by the EPA’s illegal rule.  As long as the actions of the Bush EPA break the law and threaten our environment, we will continue to fight back.”

The EPA’s new illegal Clean Water Act loophole would allow numerous, important sources of pollution to go uncontrolled.  For example, sediment-laden water could be sent into clear drinking water reservoirs; chemical-laden waters could be dumped into waters used in farm irrigation; warm waters could be pumped into cold water habitats (such as trout streams); salt water could be transferred into fresh water; and invasive species can be introduced into waters not yet infested.

The EPA’s rule could cause environmental havoc for fishing streams and other water bodies, and prominent New York State and national recreational fishing groups and environmental groups have also challenged the EPA’s illegal rule.

Bert Darrow, the Director of the Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the President of the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers said, “The Clean Water Act is fundamental to ensuring the continued health of New York’s most important waters and the fisheries they sustain.  We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for leading a coalition in defense of New York’s waters, and for standing up to EPA’s outrageous and illegal disregard of its responsibility to protect our environment.”

New York State Trout Unlimited Chairman Ron Urban said, “For decades, the Clean Water Act has been the basic structure to regulate and protect the waters of the US and states like New York.  This includes ensuring that water transfers don’t also result in the transfer pollution, exotic species, and other harms from one waterbody to another.  We commend Andrew Cuomo and this coalition of Attorneys General in suing to force EPA to adhere to its role as regulator and protector of our waters.”

President of Hudson Riverkeeper Alex Matthiessen said, “We commend the State of New York and other states for challenging this most recent effort by the Bush EPA to illegally limit the reach of the federal Clean Water Act.  Polluted water transfers can introduce and spread invasive species, which can devastate the ecology of affected water ways, and add pollutants that risk rendering waters unfit for drinking, swimming, fishing or other recreational activities.  The EPA’s assertion that the new rule is consistent with the Clean Water Act’s core mission is patently false.”

National Wildlife Federation’s Wetlands and Water Resources Counsel Jim Murphy said, “At a time when wildlife is threatened by raising water temperatures, reducing flows, concentrating pollutants, and spreading invasive species in our prized streams, rivers and lakes, EPA’s new rule makes it much easier to further pollute our waters and spread exotic species.  We need strong measures to protect our waters, not illegal rules that make the problem worse.”

Today’s challenge was filed in United State District Court for the Southern District of New York, with a companion filing in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  Joining Cuomo in the action are the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington, and the Government of the Province of Manitoba, Canada.  The suit seeks to have the Court invalidate the EPA’s June 9, 2008 regulation and declare the water transfer loophole illegal

Attorney General Cuomo has been a leader in fighting water pollution and in challenging the Bush EPA’s environmental rollbacks.  In the last two months, Cuomo, supported by large coalitions of states, has won two key rulings from federal appellate courts forcing the Bush EPA to live up to its Clean Water Act responsibilities.  On September 18, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of New York in an action challenging the EPA’s failure to control toxic storm water discharges from construction sites.  On July 23, 2008, the same court ruled for New York in an action challenging the EPA’s failure to control the release of invasive species in ballast water discharges from cargo ships.

This case is being handled by Watershed Inspector General Philip Bein, and Assistant Attorneys General Kevin Donovan and Michael Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General for Environmental Protection Katherine Kennedy.