Environmental Law Blog
Missouri Joins 8 States in Suing EPA
Missouri has joined eight other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency because they believe EPA created a loophole in the federal Clean Water Act that threatens waterways and drinking water. This new loophole also threatens the Missouri River by making it easier for upstream states to divert water outside the Missouri River basin. Any water that is pumped outside the Missouri River basin in upstream states will never flow through Missouri. More than half of all Missourians rely on the River for drinking water.
EPA's "Water Transfer Rule" exempts the transfer of polluted water from one body of water to another. Formerly, a permit was requried for such transfers. Under the new rule, an entire class of water polluters will be exempt from Clean Water Act permitting requirements. The new rule allows contaminants to be dumped into drinking water sources, lakes and streams by water transfer operations--without any permit or regulatory oversight by the states.
Transfer operations include an ocean ship dumping salt water into the Great Lakes or a contaminated lake's water being pumped into a pristine river. Water transfers routinely occur throughout the country for irrigation projects, city drinking water, dams and ecological restoration. More often than not, these transfer waters are polluted with various contaminants that are not present in the waters in which the polluted waters are dumped.
Moreover, transfer waters often include invasive species. Invasive, or non-native, species have not evolved alongside native species and are not subject to the same ecological checks and balances as native species. For example, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, sericea lespedeza, an Asian plant purposefully planted along roadsides in Missouri to prevent erosion, has no natural predators here and spreads aggressively, often displacing native plants.
The lawsuit leading up to the implementation of EPA's Water Transfer Rule marked the first time in EPA's 24-year history that EPA sided with a water polluter in a case. In that case, EPA joined the sugar industry and a water district in defending against claims by Florida Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe that pumping massive quantities of polluted urban and agricultural wastes into Lake Okeechobee violated the Clean Water Act. EPA enacted the Water Transfer Rule on June 9 in an effort to "beat" the federal court's decision.
We'll keep you posted as this lawsuit progresses. In the meantime, do you agree with EPA? Should one be able to dump polluted waters from one water body into a clean water body? Or, is water just water?
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