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Oregon joins lawsuit against Trump administration over Clean Water Act rollback

Oregon's Attorney General joined those from 18 other states in a lawsuit over a rule change that altered the definition of the 'waters of the United States' in the Clean Water Act.

Posted: May 4, 2020 2:36 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will be part of a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a rule change at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that rolled back some regulations under the Clean Water Act, the state Attorney General's office announced on Monday.

“The EPA just gutted an important policy that impacts the quality of Oregon’s waterways and streams. As Oregonians, we pride ourselves on having some of the clearest and freshest waterways — and drinking water — in the United States," said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "But with the stroke of a pen, President Trump has taken away important federal protections that help us regulate our own waters. We will keep fighting for clean waterways — for today, and for the generations to come."

Rosenblum joined Attorneys General from 18 other states in the suit, which named the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers as defendants.

The EPA's rollback hinges on a new, more narrow definiton of "waters of the United States" named in the Clean Water Act — removing from protection some streams, wetlands, and other waterways. When the rule change hit in late January, state Representatives Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden struck very different tones on the outcome.

Walden called the Obama-era rules "heavy-handed," saying that the act expanded to cover waterways as small as irrigation ditches. 

"The 2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama Administration provided much-needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water Act protections by specifically including within the scope of protected waters the headwaters of rivers and creeks as well as other non-traditionally navigable waters, which have significant impact on downstream water quality," Rosenblum's office said.

In 2019, Governor Brown championed a bill that adopted the Obama-era Clean Air and Clean Water Act standards for Oregon "even if the federal government rolls the standards back." 

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