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Earthrise and NWEA Threaten Federal Lawsuit to Protect Puget Sound from Polluted Runoff

September 27, 2016

Earthrise attorney Allison LaPlante, along with Paul Kampmeier of Kampmeier & Knutsen, representing Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) are threatening the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with a lawsuit in 60 days over their failure to protect coastal threatened and endangered species in Washington State. Nina Bell, Executive Director of NWEA, asserted that it is a congressionally mandated requirement that the agencies use their power to “kick coastal states into high gear on protecting water quality. “ 

 NWEA wants to force the two agencies to levy the congressionally mandated fines on the state of Washington for failing to comply with the law that requires the state to control polluted runoff in coastal watersheds, including Puget Sound.  Bell explained that, “in 1998, the federal agencies told Washington that it needed to address pollution from farming and logging, dairy operations, urban runoff, on-site septic systems, pesticides, you name it. But over the last 18 years, EPA and NOAA have inched closer and closer to concluding that Washington has a complete and functional program even though Puget Sound is as polluted as it’s ever been. It’s well past time for the federal agencies to stop being lap dogs when what the public needs them to be are guard dogs.” According to Bell, “the best outcome of our imminent lawsuit would be Washington’s commitment to clean up the sources of pollution that only the state can regulate. But if it refuses, there is no reason why it should not suffer the consequences of its inaction, the way that Congress intended.”
 

NWEA and Earthrise Law Center filed a similar lawsuit, focused on inadequate logging practices in Oregon, under the federal Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (“CZARA”) in 2009. The case was settled in 2010 but Oregon reneged on its agreements. By 2013, the federal agencies had proposed to disapprove Oregon’s program. In January 2015 they had disapproved it, and in March 2016 they cut Oregon’s annual funding by $1.2 million. Oregon was the first state in the nation to have its coastal nonpoint program disapproved and to be fined.

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