EPA on Notice for Violations of the Endangered Species Act in New England
The Center for Biological Diversity and Northwest Environmental Advocates notified the Environmental Protection Agency last week that they plan to sue the agency for failing to consider the needs of endangered salmon and sturgeon when approving state water-quality standards in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut.
The Clean Water Act requires EPA to approve or disapprove a state’s proposed water quality standards. As part of the approval process, the Endangered Species Act requires EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that any changes to water quality standards do not jeopardize endangered species. Between 2011 and 2016, EPA failed to consult with these expert wildlife agencies prior to approving changes to water quality standards in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut. These changes include revisions to standards for more than a dozen toxic heavy-metal pollutants, several organophosphate pesticides including diazinon, and conventional pollutants including phosphorus and ammonia. Many of these pollutants have been identified by the National Marine Fisheries Services as impediments to the survival and recovery of Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, and shortnose sturgeon. By failing to consult under the Endangered Species Act, EPA failed to consider whether the states should implement additional conservation measures to minimize harm from exposure to these pollutants.
Earthrise Attorneys Kevin Cassidy and Lia Comerford are representing the Center and NWEA in this matter.