Via the Virginia AG press release
Late this afternoon, a federal judge accepted arguments made by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has exceeded its authority by attempting to regulate water itself as a pollutant by imposing restrictions on the flow of stormwater into Fairfax County’s Accotink Creek. The effect of this ruling could save Virginia taxpayers more than $300 million in unnecessary costs.
EPA had previously issued an edict that would cut the flow of water into the creek by nearly half, in an effort to address the sediment flow on the bottom of the creek. In regulating the flow rate of stormwater into the creek, the agency was trying to regulate water itself as a pollutant, rather than the sediment. The attorney general challenged the EPA’s action as exceeding the agency’s legal authority to regulate pollutants under the Clean Water Act (CWA). These restrictions also would have diverted public funds that could be spent more effectively on stream restoration for Accotink Creek and other waterways in the region.
Judge Liam O’Grady agreed with co-plaintiffs VDOT (represented by the attorney general) and Fairfax County, saying in his ruling that federal law simply does not grant EPA the authority it claims. The Clean Water Act gives the EPA the authority to establish TMDLs – Total Maximum Daily Loads – regulating maximum acceptable levels of pollutants that may be discharged on a daily basis into a particular waterway. The problem for the EPA is that water is not a pollutant under the CWA.
“The Court sees no ambiguity in the wording of [the federal Clean Water Act]. EPA is charged with establishing TMDLs for the appropriate pollutants; that does not give them the authority to regulate nonpollutants,” O’Grady said.