States Challenge Epa Reversal On Polluted Runoff

Attorney General Spitzer and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to issue national guidelines and standards for harmful storm water pollution discharges from construction sites.

"Dirty runoff from construction sites is one of the largest sources of water pollution," Attorney General Spitzer said. "EPA knows this and agreed to address the problem by setting strong national standards. But now EPA refuses to act. States need these standards to protect the water we all rely on for drinking, swimming, fishing and recreation."

Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal said: "We are vigorously challenging EPA to adopt a national policy to properly protect local and national waterways. While Connecticut has strong rules and tough enforcement, a lack of stringent nationwide standards creates an unfair economic development advantage for states with flimsy regulations. I have consistently and strongly enforced rules that protect our watersheds from destructive storm water runoff from construction sites. We will continue to vigorously take action against companies and individuals who disregard critical state standards."

Sediment and other storm water pollutants, such as oils, pesticides, and heavy metals associated with the construction and development of land, can significantly impair drinking water reservoirs, lakes, rivers and coastal waters. EPA has acknowledged that polluted runoff from construction sites can exceed that from undisturbed sites by 1,000 times or more.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA is required to promulgate technology-based standards for industrial pollutant discharges, including discharges associated with construction and land development. Once issued by EPA, state agencies incorporate the standards into permits for local construction and development activities.

Many states, including New York and Connecticut, already regulate storm water pollution discharges associated with construction and development of land. By failing to set minimal national standards for reducing these discharges, EPA has undermined these states' efforts to protect their own waters and endangers interstate waters.

Studies by EPA and others have shown that cost-effective technologies are available to control and manage polluted runoff from construction and development sites. The studies found that today's technology can reduce pollution by as much as 90 percent.

On June 24, 2002, under a court order, EPA proposed guidelines and standards for storm water pollution from the construction and development industry. Despite EPA's legal obligation to finalize these pollution controls, EPA announced on April 26, 2004 that it would withdraw its proposal.

The legal action was filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein, Andrew Frank, and Lemuel Srolovic under the direction of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Peter Lehner.