North Carolina joins multi-state lawsuit opposing federal rule change

Raleigh

Today, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) joined the North Carolina Attorney General and 16 states in filing suit opposing the EPA’s final rule defining “Waters of the United States”.  The rule is set to take effect on June 22, 2020.

“This rule threatens decades of improvements in water quality and endangers North Carolina’s unique wetlands,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This historic rollback of protections will result in a significant loss of natural resources and it is not based on science and runs counter to decades of EPA policy. DEQ will continue to use the state’s authority to protect water quality and the associated economic benefits to North Carolina.”

The new rule arbitrarily narrows the existing definition of waters protected under the Clean Water Act and excludes many of North Carolina’s wetlands. These wetlands play a critical role in filtering pollution and slowing stormwater during flooding events.   The new rule also reduces protections for drinking water sources, risks damage to our fishing industry and increases flooding risks from runoff and sea-level rise.

In joint comments on the proposed rule in April of 2019, DEQ and the NC Attorney General advocated for a science-based approach to defining the Waters of the United States to preserve water quality and provide clarity for landowners.  DEQ objected to arbitrary changes in defining protected waters and raised concerns about the regulatory gap created by the changes that would need to be filled by new rules, laws and personnel to protect wetlands. DEQ also raised concerns about the increased burden on underfunded, understaffed regulatory agencies that work in partnership with the federal government to protect wetlands nation-wide. The EPA final rule does not address the concerns raised in those comments.

A copy of the filing is available here.

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