U.S. Water News Online
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Bush administration erred when it
approved West Virginia's flawed policy for protecting the quality of
its rivers and streams, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin threw out the state's
anti-degradation rule, sending it back to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental
Protection for a re-write.
``West Virginia's regulations simply fail to require the minimum
protections required by the EPA's regulation,'' the judge ruled.
``EPA's approval of West Virginia's procedures was based on an
unreasonable attempt to effectively amend the plain meaning of those
provisions so as to bring them into line with federal requirements.''
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and other groups filed
suit after EPA approved the state policy in November 2001. In a
ruling that exceeds 70 pages, Goodwin overturned seven of its 13
Lawyers for the groups believe Goodwin is the first federal judge
to throw out EPA approval of a state anti-degradation policy.
``The court has rejected many of the loopholes that EPA and the
state of West Virginia tried to create,'' said Jim Hecker,
environmental enforcement director for Trial Lawyers for Public
Justice, a Washington firm that represented the groups. ``It will now
be harder for them to be allowed to let West Virginia's waters
State DEP officials were reviewing the ruling, lawyer Perry
``The agency will take a closer look at it and consult with EPA
and determine what our next step is,'' McDaniel said.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, an anti-degradation policy is
supposed to maintain the current quality of rivers and streams. It
supplements water quality standards, which identify when streams
aren't safe for drinking, fishing, swimming, or boating.
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