Records Sought on Possible EPA, State Collusion to Gut Wetlands Protections

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Records Sought on Possible EPA, State Collusion to Gut Wetlands Protections

EPA Meeting With States Suing Agency Seeking Weakened Water Regulations

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity today requested U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public records after the agency admitted it has begun closed-door meetings with states and “stakeholders” to develop a weakened regulatory framework for protecting wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Today’s Freedom of Information Act request seeks records to determine if those meetings, concerning which wetlands should be protected, are legal. The EPA was ordered to weaken protections for wetlands by Executive Order 13778, signed by President Trump Feb. 28.

“If EPA officials think they can let special interests write the rules for our wetlands behind closed doors, they’re deeply mistaken,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s government affairs director. “It’s outrageous for EPA to bend over backwards for the same states that have repeatedly sued to allow more pollution of our air and water. The agency should be following the law and the best science in deciding how to protect our wetlands, not making sweetheart deals with polluters.”   

Trump’s executive order required the EPA to notify the Department of Justice about potential changes to the “Waters of the United States” wetlands rule and how they might affect ongoing litigation over the regulations.

The Center’s Freedom of Information Act request also asks for all information relating to whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is involved in these new efforts to weaken protections for wetlands, which would directly impact Oklahoma, in violation of his ethics agreement. During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt promised to recuse himself from all litigation matters in which the state of Oklahoma is a party.

“Administrator Pruitt was right there next to Donald Trump when the executive order gutting protections for wetlands was signed. Who knows what else he’s doing behind the scenes to ram through this massive giveaway to polluters?” said Hartl. “Pruitt seems far more interested in serving special interests than meeting his ethical obligations or protecting our air and water.”

This FOIA request comes on the heels of another Center action against Pruitt. The Center yesterday filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association seeking an investigation into whether Pruitt lied to Congress while under oath for using a personal email address for official business during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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