Attorneys General Sue EPA to Block "Unlawful" Delay of Clean Water Rule

New York AG Eric Schneiderman leads coalition of 11 AGs seeking to protect clean water for residents

February 6, 2018

Washington, D.C.— New York Attorney Genera Eric Schneiderman today led a group of 11 attorneys general in suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for suspending for two years the Clean Water Rule. The attorneys general argue the EPA ignored scientific evidence and a multi-year comment process and changed the definition of "waters of the United States." 

"Reverting to the definition that pre-dated the 2015 Clean Water Rule is a wholesale, substantive redefinition of 'waters of the United States' under the Act," wrote the attorneys general in the lawsuit. "The agencies have undertaken this redefinition with inadequate public notice and opportunity for comment, insufficient record support, and outside their statutory authority, illegally suspending a rule that became effective more than two years ago. And the agencies have codified this expansive redefinition under the guise of merely 'preserving the status quo.'” 

"The Trump Administration, once again, is showing total disregard for our environment and the rule of law," said David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. "Attorneys general are holding the EPA accountable to ensure safe water for their constituents. Their unique ability to stop reckless actions dead in their tracks is the only thing standing between harmful decisions by this Administration and vital protections for our environment." 

In addition to New York, attorneys general from the following states joined in filing the lawsuit: California; Connecticut; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; Oregon; Rhode Island; Vermont; Washington; and Washington, D.C.  

Attorneys general released the following statements on the letter:

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:
“Clean water is fundamental to New Yorkers’ health, environment, and economy. The Trump Administration’s suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, threatening New York’s decades-long efforts to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy water. We will fight back against this reckless rollback and the Trump administration’s continued assault on our nation’s core public health and environmental protections.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:
“The Trump Administration should be doing everything in its power to keep our water clean, to protect our environment. Instead, it has decided to suspend the Clean Water Rule with cavalier disregard for our laws and deliberative process. The California Department of Justice will not spectate as this Administration attempts to undo yet another critical environmental protection. We will do what is necessary to defend the Clean Water Rule and our right to clean water. The Rule was legally promulgated, based on science, and will help protect our precious water resources. We look forward to making our case in court.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh:
“Maryland has sacrificed, worked and fought to save the Chesapeake Bay. Suspension of the Clean Water Rule undermines decades of progress and threatens our supply of clean drinking water. This is another illegal assault on critical environmental protections by the EPA and Administrator Pruitt.” 

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal:
"The Trump Administration has taken a comprehensive, science-based rule designed to protect our most precious natural resource - clean water - and suspended it without authority to do so, and without observing proper procedures. We are glad to take part in the fight to halt this unlawful and harmful action." 

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:
"Oregon is known for world class drinking water, rivers and streams. It's unacceptable that the @EPA would illegally suspend the Clean Water Rule. That's why we joined 11 AG's to sue today. We can't eliminate this critical federal law backstop that protects water quality."

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin:
"First the EPA, under Scott Pruitt, attacked long-standing policies and principles of the Clean Air Act, and now the agency is trying to undermine the Clean Water Act while flagrantly ignoring scientific data and skirting the Administrative Procedures Act. With the EPA's enactment of this Rule, literally over thirty years of environmental progress has been undone and we have returned to the vague and uncertain standards in place during the 1980s."

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson:
“I won’t allow the Trump Administration to continue to ignore the law to try to undermine important environmental rules simply because it doesn’t like them. This thoroughly vetted rule adds much-needed clarity to the laws that protect our waterways. If the Administration wants to change it, it must follow the law.”

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine:
“This abrupt and unlawful suspension of the Clean Water Rule is a step backward that endangers our health and safety. Our rivers are a defining feature of our city. We have spent decades working to restore the Anacostia River, and we rely on the Potomac River for our drinking water. We won’t stand by while the Trump administration seeks to strip us of protections that keep our water safe to drink and our rivers safe for recreation.”  

ABOUT THE STATE IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit