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FEDERAL JUDGE STOPS CLEAN WATER RULE IN 13 STATES

On Aug. 27, Chief District Judge Ralph R. Erickson for the District of North Dakota filed a preliminary injunction against the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation under the Clean Water Act before it was to take effect on Aug. 28.

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a final ruling at the end of June 2015 to change the definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act to include streams and wetlands. The EPA states that roughly 117 million Americans get their drinking water from streams formally unprotected by the Clean Water Act.

However, 13 states including Colorado, immediately filed lawsuit against the EPA, stating that the new WOTUS regulation is an overreach of federal authority, which Judge Erickson affirmed through his ruling.

“The EPA cannot simply ignore state sovereignty as it continues to reach further into state affairs. Today (Aug. 27) the court agreed with Colorado and its fellow States that EPA likely overstepped its authority in trying to take control over state waters and, in doing so, poses a threat to state sovereignty. We will continue to vigorously defend Colorado from federal overreach,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman in a press release.

While WOTUS went into effect in 37 states as planned on Aug. 28, the injunction prevents the implementation of the new regulation in Colorado and other litigating states until the case can be heard in federal court.

“It’s disappointing that opponents of clean water would prefer legal maneuvers and confusion over clarity in the law, which benefits industry and conservation alike,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in a press release. “To ensure the health of one in three Americans, who get their drinking water from streams currently without protection, and the $646 billion outdoor economy driven by hunters, anglers, and others who rely on clean water, this rule must be allowed to move forward.”

HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOM PERSISTS IN THE PACIFIC

Throughout the summer scientists along the entire West Coast from Alaska to Southern California have been reporting abnormally large harmful algae blooms (HAB) due to above-average surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. These blooms, also known as “red tides,” are especially concerning given the high concentration of the phytoplankton pseudo-nitzchia, a microalgae known to produce the neurotoxin domoic acid.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NC- COS,) a program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports that the current HAB event in the Pacific is causing the highest concentration of domoic acid observed in the last decade, which has caused the closure of many shellfish harvesting areas in Washington and Oregon, as well as some anchovy and sardine fisheries in California, to protect against amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). ASP can cause gastrointestinal problems, seizures and even permanent short-term memory loss in severe cases according to Washington Sate Department of Health. The high concentration of domoic acid is also causing seizures in sea lions and poisoning birds.

NOAA has committed additional scientists to research the algal bloom and granted $88,000 in Washington state alone to monitor and analyze the toxic pseudo-nitzchia in order to determine how long the event will persist this year and the likelihood of similar blooms in the future.