Federal Judge Denies Administration’s Request to Move Challenge of Clean Water Attack to Texas Court

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal judge in South Carolina today denied the Environmental Protection Agency’s request to move to Texas a challenge of the administration’s effort to strip away critical safeguards of the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws.

“South Carolina citizens challenged the administration’s attack on the Clean Water Act because the rivers, lakes, and wetlands we love and depend on here would suffer heavily from having their protections stripped away. Making us go a thousand miles away to Texas wouldn’t make any sense,” said Blan Holman, a managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing the coalition of conservation groups in court. “Water is a way of life in the South, especially in South Carolina, where clean water is the lifeblood of our economy and health. We will continue to fight efforts to remove longstanding protections that have allowed prosperity and protection to go hand in hand.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the initial challenge in the U.S. District Court of the District of South Carolina in February on behalf of American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Charleston Waterkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Coastal Conservation League, Friends of the Rappahannock, North Carolina Coastal Federation, and North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

"We are relieved that this case is going to be heard in Charleston and not sent a thousand miles away to a different state. Our supporters love Charleston’s rivers, creeks, and wetlands--they fish, swim, and paddle them regularly and have a direct stake in their health,” said Andrew Wunderley, Charleston Waterkeeper. “They deserve to have the case heard here and have a fundamental right to participate in the decision making process for the safeguards that protect their rivers and wetlands."

“Clean water is critical to a healthy North Carolina coastal environment and economy,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. “We will continue to defend regulatory safeguards that are vital to North Carolinians' livelihoods, especially here on the coast where so much of our work and recreation depend on knowing our waters are healthy and safe."

The lawsuit contends that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated fundamental laws that prohibit agencies from removing basic environmental safeguards without telling the public what they are doing, revealing the impact of those changes, and giving the public a chance to weigh in. The agencies failed at their most basic responsibilities: evaluating the effect of their reckless actions and allowing the public to comment on their decision to eliminate scientifically backed protections for rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.

"Trump's EPA is putting our water resources, communities, and public health at risk with its dirty water agenda," said Jennifer Peters, Clean Water Action's National Water Programs Director. "Now that the Court has ruled, we're looking forward to fighting this administration's unlawful delay of protections for streams, wetlands, and other vital water resources and stopping its drive to strip protections for the drinking water of 1 in 3 people." 

The suspension of standards under the Clean Water Act is the first of several steps announced by the administration to repeal long-standing clean water protections, which could strip away safeguards from wetlands, streams and other waters that feed drinking-water sources for nearly 20 million people in the South and 117 million people across the country.

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For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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