June 14, 2018
(Reuters) – Environmental groups sued the Trump administration on Wednesday challenging moves they say weaken protections for rivers, wetlands and other waterways.
The actions follow an executive order by President Donald Trump in February 2017 that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to work toward rescinding a clean water rule issued under President Barack Obama in 2015.
Nine conservation organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity and regional groups in California and Idaho filed the lawsuit U.S. District Court Northern District of California.
The 2015 rule known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) gave the federal government power to limit pollution in major waterways and wetlands.
In late January, the EPA said that WOTUS will not be applied for two years while it works to repeal and replace the Obama-era clean water regulation.
“The delay further exacerbates water quality problems,” Hannah Connor, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an email.
The groups want the court to annul the delay.
Defendants include Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit also challenges parts of the 2015 rule because the groups claim it removed clean water safeguards for certain kinds of waterways.
Pruitt has been visiting agricultural states this week to discuss the WOTUS rule, which was widely panned by farmers during the Obama administration. He will hold a roundtable on the rule on Thursday in Nebraska.
“This is yet another gift by the Trump administration to big agribusiness operations, allowing more agricultural pollutants on our food and in our environment,” Adam Keats, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement online.
(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman)
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