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New York, Others Challenge Trump Rollback of Waters Rule (1)

Dec. 20, 2019, 4:14 PMUpdated: Dec. 20, 2019, 10:07 PM

A coalition of states is heading to court to challenge the Trump administration’s repeal of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, a landmark regulation aimed at clarifying federal water protections.

New York, California, Connecticut, and other states and cities filed suit Dec. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

They say Trump administration officials violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Clean Water Act by repealing the Obama-era regulation and reverting to 1986 regulations for federal water protections.

“The Agencies did not address the factual and scientific findings that they had made in the Clean Water Rule, including their findings regarding categories of waters that are not navigable-in-fact but significantly affect the integrity of downstream navigable waters,” the complaint says.

The new lawsuit is one of many challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to roll back the regulation. Also known as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, the rule aimed to clarify which wetlands and waterways are subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups sued immediately after the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers published the WOTUS repeal in the Federal Register in October.

The EPA and the Army Corps are working on a replacement rule expected out in early 2020.

Separately, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, backed by the right-leaning Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit arguing that the 1986 interpretation of waters jurisdiction—which comes back into effect because of the repeal—is unlawful.

The state coalition behind the new lawsuit also includes Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, Massachusetts, and Virginia, plus the District of Columbia and New York City.

“This regressive rule ignores science and the law and strips our waters of basic protections under the Clean Water Act. Attorneys general across this nation will not stand by as the Trump administration seeks to reverse decades of progress we’ve made in fighting water pollution,” New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said in a statement.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The case is New York v. Wheeler, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:19-cv-11673, complaint 12/20/19.

(Adds comment from the EPA and New York attorney general in last paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Anna Yukhananov at