Seventeen states and two cities are suing the Trump administration over its Navigable Waters Protection Rule, joining a host of environmental groups that have already filed lawsuits challenging the new definition of "waters of the U.S." 

The rule “excludes many waters, including ephemeral streams and many wetlands, from the scope of ‘waters of the United States,’” which is “contrary to the [Clean Water] Act’s objective ‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters,’” the complaint filed in the Northern District of California says.

The plaintiffs are California, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York.

“This rule threatens decades of improvements in water quality and endangers North Carolina’s unique wetlands,” said Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

He added that the “historic rollback” of clean water protections “is not based on science and runs counter to decades of EPA policy. DEQ will continue to use the state’s authority to protect water quality and the associated economic benefits to North Carolina.”

“Accepted science and the agencies’ previous findings overwhelmingly demonstrate that the waters excluded from the [CWA’s] protections by the 2020 rule significantly affect downstream water quality and require protection as ‘waters of the United States’ under the CWA,” the complaint says.

In addition, it says states and cities rely on the CWA “and its uniform nationwide floor of water pollution controls as the primary mechanisms for protecting them from the effects of out-of-state discharges of pollutants.”

Under the NWPR, the states and cities’ waters will suffer because fewer out-of-state sources of pollution … will be controlled by the Act,” the lawsuit says.

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The lawsuit follows at least three others from environmental groups. They include: a group including the National Wildlife Federation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and American Rivers, which filed suit in South Carolina; a group including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Conservation Law Foundation and Prairie Rivers Network, filed in Massachusetts; and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Shorerivers, which filed their complaint in Maryland.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association also filed suit in New Mexico, claiming the NWPR still covers waters too far removed from navigable waterways.

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