SELC flags Endangered Species Act violation in EPA rule harming clean water

The cypress swamps along South Carolina's coast are just one of the many important habitats at issue under new federal laws. 

Today, the Southern Environmental Law Center notified the Environmental Protection Agency that it violated the Endangered Species Act when it cut back on the rights of states and local communities under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. SELC sent the notice on behalf of South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina Native Plant Society, Amigos Bravos, Natural Resources Defense Council, Savannah Riverkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance. 

The EPA has adopted new Section 401 regulations that eliminate the ability of states and their residents to ensure that projects requiring federal permits and licenses do not harm local clean water and natural resources.

EPA has failed in its fundamental duty.”

—Senior Attorney Frank Holleman

In many instances, local communities have requested and states have put in place conditions that protect rare species in the areas impacted by federally permitted projects. The new EPA rules would restrict the ability of states and local residents to secure those protections. Under the Endangered Species Act, the EPA was required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before making changes that would harm endangered and threatened species, to ensure those changes would not jeopardize the species’ continued existence. EPA failed to do so.

“Over decades, states and local communities have required that federal permits include requirements to protect important natural resources, including rare fish, plants, and birds,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “In eliminating the rights of states and local residents to put in place these protections, the EPA has failed in its fundamental duty to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before taking such harmful action.”

The notice informs the EPA of the organizations’ intent to bring suit for violation of the Endangered Species Act if the EPA does not comply with the Act in 60 days.

These organizations have previously sued the EPA in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act when it adopted the new restrictive regulations under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. That suit is pending in Charleston, S.C.

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