JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency has ignored Missouri’s failure to meet federal water-quality standards, and now “well over” 80 percent of the state’s waters “lack the basic protections” of the Clean Water Act and are unsafe for fishing and swimming, an environmental coalition claims in Federal Court.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment Foundation claims the EPA approved state water standards that fell below federal guidelines, breaching its duty to enforce the stricter requirements of the Clean Water Act.
“The [EPA’s] decisions to approve Missouri’s new and revised assignment of
fishable/swimmable uses to some state waters but not to unclassified waters was arbitrary and capricious and was in clear violation of the law,” the complaint states. The coalition claims Missouri tacked on an “additional, largely meaningless layer of regulation” requiring bodies of water to be “classified” according to their flow characteristics before they can be assigned a use, such as swimming, fishing, boating or drinking.
“There is no rhyme or reason as to which waters are ‘classified’ and which are ‘unclassified,’ and the great majority have been left unclassified,” the lawsuit states.
“As a result of these arbitrary rules, well over 80 percent of the waters in Missouri, at least 159,000 miles of streams, remain ‘unclassified,'” according to the complaint.
“For nearly 40 years, Missouri law has failed to comply with the CWA,” the coalition claims. “And thus, for nearly 40 years, the EPA has failed to fulfill its duty to enforce and implement the CWA.”
The group seeks a court declaration that Missouri’s water-quality standards do not meet federal guidelines. It also wants an order compelling the EPA to reject Missouri’s standards and to notify the state of what it needs to do to comply with federal law.
The coalition is represented by Elizabeth Hubertz of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
The EPA and its administrator, Lisa Jackson, are named as defendants.