Federal Court Decision: EPA is Not Required to Establish Human Health Criteria for Washington State

Published Sep 22, 2014

On September 18, United States District Court Judge John Coughenour issued an order dismissing a lawsuit by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and other environmental groups to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a new fish consumption rate and new human health criteria for the state of Washington. EPA had already determined in 1992 that Washington had failed to properly develop human health criteria and imposed its National Toxics Rule on the state. The National Toxics Rule is still in effect. Washington has nonetheless been working since 2013 to develop the state’s first human health criteria. A preliminary draft rule is anticipated by September 30, 2014, and the formal rulemaking process is expected to commence in 2015.

The federal court lawsuit was based primarily on a small number of emails and letters from EPA regional staff commenting on the state’s water quality standard review process. EPA and intervenors Department of Ecology, Northwest Pulp & Paper Association, and Manufacturing Industrial Council argued that these communications did not constitute a determination by EPA that the existing state water quality standards are inadequate to protect beneficial uses. The court agreed. Judge Coughenour’s ruling means that EPA is not required to amend its National Toxics Rule as applied to the state of Washington. Tupper Mack Wells PLLC represented intervenor-defendant Northwest Pulp & Paper Association in this lawsuit.  For more information, contact James Tupper at tupper@tmw-law.com.

  • To view the court’s decision, click here.