Reacting to a decision by the Bush administration to reconsider provisions of an important Clean Water Act program, Earthjustice called today’s action another example of the Bush team trying to use backdoor tactics to derail important environmental protections in the United States. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load program is designed to clean up the nation’s most polluted waters and thereby constitutes one of the most crucial aspects of the Clean Water Act. In court filings by the federal government in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Bush administration asked the court to stay for 18 months pending litigation addressing a Clinton administration revision of the TMDL regulations. Such a move would allow the Bush administration time to reconsider – and weaken – the regulations, conservationists charge. Earthjustice attorneys Mike Lozeau and Howard Fox are representing environmental groups in the litigation over the TMDL regulations adopted in June 2000.
“Today, the Bush administration is setting in motion a process designed not only to delay but also to weaken the TMDL program – the Clean Water Act’s primary tool for cleaning up polluted lakes, beaches, rivers, and streams,” said Mike Lozeau, staff attorney in Earthjustice’s Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School. “The Bush administration has now aimed an arrow at the heart of one of the Clean Water Act’s most important provisions.”
Designed to serve as a pollution cap sufficient to make waters safe for fishing, swimming, and other uses, a TMDL represents the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive and still meet water quality standards. Currently there are more than 20,000 polluted bodies of water that have been identified by states, including 300,000 miles of river and shoreline and five million acres of lakes. More than 210 million Americans live within ten miles of polluted waters needing a TMDL clean up plan. TMDLs for these impaired waters are already decades overdue.
“The only thing dirtier than our nation’s polluted waters is the Bush administration’s backdoor attempt to weaken the Clean Water Act,” said Howard Fox, Earthjustice managing attorney in Washington, D.C. “This is another example of the Bush administration’s approach of rolling back our environmental and public health protections.”
“Today’s move is the Clean Water Act equivalent of what the Bush administration did on arsenic in drinking water and the roadless areas in national forests,” said Fox.