Employer groups in Washington state recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water quality standards for Washington state.
The suit alleges the EPA’s standards are “so stringent that compliance cannot even be measured, much less achieved.”
The plaintiffs are the Association of Washington Business (AWB), Northwest Pulp & Paper Association (NWPPA), American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Greater Spokane Inc., and the region’s largest food processing trade association, Food Northwest.
The suit, filed Dec. 4 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the EPA arrived at “these impossible standards” by using data that is unscientific, conflicts with EPA guidance and has no basis in real-world data.
“EPA’s arbitrary assumptions produced absurd standards that fall below even background levels of the relevant pollutants in many water bodies, rendering Washington’s communities and businesses powerless to comply. EPA added insult to injury by justifying the rule in part using a flawed economic analysis that purported to find the standards are cost-free,” the lawsuit said.
EPA’s December 2022 decision to override standards adopted in 2016 left wastewater discharge permittees with no other recourse, according to a news release from AWB.
“This aspirational rule threatens the economic well-being of every community in our state by imposing disastrous compliance costs and failing to provide alternative methods to achieve regulatory compliance,” Johnson said.
If lawsuit is successful, it will result in reinstatement of the state Department of Ecology’s 2016 water quality standards rule, which Johnson said is very stringent and highly protective in its own right, while taking into account the policy considerations from Washington employers and municipalities.
NWPPA said its members are committed to full compliance with environmental standards. However, its member companies cannot operate in states where EPA-driven standards make reliable compliance impossible.
Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), which has a plant in Wallula east of the Tri-Cities, is a member of NWPPA and AF&PA.
“This new rule creates an untenable situation for any wastewater discharge permit holder in our state. If permittees are unable to meet their permit limits or requirements based on these water quality standards, every permittee could face legal challenges for non-compliance under the Clean Water Act. And that creates significant uncertainty for employers,” said Chris McCabe, executive director of the NWPPA, in a statement.
“... Purely aspirational environmental rules like this in fact put tens of thousands of labor-backed, family-waged jobs at risk in some of Washington’s more rural, and economically distressed communities.”
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!