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WOTUS Rule Delay Faces Another Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another group of conservation organizations are set to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers over the decision that delays the effective date for the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

Conservation groups filed Wednesday a formal notice of intent to sue the agencies for failing to consider harm to endangered species when adopting the rule that redefined which waterways are protected under the federal Clean Water Act — the “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, rule.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the notice along with the Center for Food Safety, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Humboldt Baykeeper, Russian Riverkeeper, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper and Monterey Coastkeeper. It demands that the agencies come into compliance with the Endangered Species Act before any move to delay the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

The two-year delay is the first of several steps the federal agencies are taking to carry out a 2017 executive order by President Trump that the groups said would slash protections for wetlands, creeks and rivers across the nation.

Kelly Hunter Foster

“It is clear EPA and the Corps are determined to reduce or eliminate Clean Water Act protections for the majority of our nation’s waters, and they are attempting to do that without legal authority and without complying with the nation’s most basic environmental laws,” said Kelly Hunter Foster, a Waterkeeper Alliance senior attorney.

The groups filing the notice of intent are represented by Earthrise Law Center, the environmental legal clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School of Portland, Oregon.

The challenge follows one announced earlier this month by Southern Environmental Law Center over delaying the WOTUS definition. That challenge was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina 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.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.