Environmentalists and public health advocates are going to court to fight the Trump administration's move to rewrite Obama-era rules limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants.
A coalition of about a dozen groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The action challenges the decision by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last month seeking to rewrite the 2015 water pollution regulations.
The rule would have required utilities to cut the amounts of toxic heavy metals in the wastewater piped from their plants into rivers and lakes often used as sources of drinking water. Arsenic, lead and mercury and other potentially harmful contaminants leach from massive pits of waterlogged ash left behind after burning coal to generate electricity.
"These standards would have tackled the biggest source of toxic water pollution in the country, and now the Trump EPA is trying to toss them out. It's indefensible," said Pete Harrison, an attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. "The EPA didn't even pretend to seek public input before plowing ahead with this rollback that could allow millions of pounds of preventable toxic pollution to go into our water."
In addition to the Waterkeepers, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and the Environmental Integrity Project are among the groups filing suit.
Pruitt acted last month at the behest of the industry-funded Utility Water Act Group, which claimed the new EPA pollution limits would result in plant closures and job losses. The move is part of a broad effort by the Trump administration to scrap stricter environmental regulations enacted over the last eight years, especially those intended to curtail the use of fossil fuels.
President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse decades of decline in coal-mining jobs and has questioned the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are to blame for global warming.