U.S. Water News Online
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Two environmental groups are making good on
a promise to sue a federal agency for not putting new water
regulations for Kansas into effect quickly enough.
The Sierra Club and the Kansas Natural Resource Council notified
the Environmental Protection Agency recently that they intend to sue
the EPA if the agency does not put its proposed water standards into
effect by Dec. 3.
The groups argue that the new standards should already be in
effect. Those standards include a requirement for the state to
regulate water quality in lakes and ponds on private land, including
Charles Benjamin, a Lawrence attorney representing the state
chapter of the Sierra Club, said the EPA is not following a timetable
for imposing regulations established by the 1972 federal Clean Water
``In our view, they have violated the law,'' Benjamin said. ``They
have 60 days to remedy the situation.''
The Clean Water Act requires groups to give the EPA 60 days'
notice before filing a lawsuit over water quality standards. The
groups would file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City,
Benjamin said the Clean Water Act requires the EPA to issue rules
and regulations 90 days after publishing proposed standards. The
standards were published July 3.
``The law says 'shall,' not 'may,' not 'if they feel like it,'''
Benjamin said. ``The words are very clear.''
Jamie Clover Adams, the state's agriculture secretary, said she is
disappointed that the two groups filed the notice. Adams is critical
of the standards, arguing that they are too intrusive and emphasize
paperwork over results.
Adams said the two groups are trying to rush the EPA into a
``It just sounds to me like they don't want the EPA to consider
what people are bringing forth,'' Adams said. ``I hope the EPA
doesn't bow to that pressure.''
Dale Armstrong, an EPA spokesman in Kansas City, said the agency
is doing its best to comply with the Clean Water Act but added, ``At
the same time, we're not going to skip over parts of the process.''
He noted that the agency still is taking public comments and said,
``Every one of them deserves review. That is our first priority.''
The new standards address what EPA sees as deficiencies in state
standards on designating rivers and lakes for different uses, streams
with low flows, stream beds where waste discharges create the only
flow and limitations on a certain pollutant.
However, much of the criticism from state officials and
agriculture groups has focused on the proposal to extend water
quality standards to lakes and ponds on private land.
The EPA agreed to write new water quality regulations under the
settlement of a 1999 federal lawsuit filed by the two environmental
groups. The groups sued because they felt the EPA was taking too long
to correct deficiencies it identified in 1994 state standards.
Benjamin noted that the Clean Water Act became federal policy
nearly three decades ago.
``It's about time to get the Clean Water Act enforced in Kansas,''
he said. ``We don't think we've been impatient.''
Adams said the EPA should have the opportunity to consider
Kansans' concerns about the standards.
``They're just trying to hold the EPA's feet to the fire,'' Adams
said of the environmental groups.
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