Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Environmentalists Sue EPA to Designate Ohio’s Portion of Lake Erie ‘impaired’

Environmentalists Sue EPA to Designate Ohio’s Portion of Lake Erie as “Impaired”

By Eric Heisig

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Advocacy groups are challenging the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to accept Ohio’s assertion that its portion of Lake Erie does not meet the definition of impaired waters.

The Ohio EPA did not include the state’s open waters on a list of impaired waterways when it submitted the list to the U.S. EPA last fall.

The federal EPA approved the list May 17 and both the state and federal agencies’ decisions were met with criticism from environmentalists who say the designation is necessary to curb the encroachment of harmful algal blooms.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie contends in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the federal EPA’s decision violates the Clean Water Act. More confounding is that the list of impaired waterways the state of Michigan submitted to the federal EPA included its portion of Lake Erie, and the agency approved Michigan’s list, the suit says.

READ MORE

Sandusky (Ohio) Register: ELPC & Others Sue to Have Lake Erie Declared ‘Impaired’

Sandusky Register

Groups Sue to Have Lake Erie Declared “Impaired”

by Tom Jackson

SANDUSKY — Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Toledo, seeking to have the open waters of Lake Erie declared “impaired” under the provisions of the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit essentially seeks to overturn the U.S. EPA’s decision to approve a declaration by the Ohio EPA that the open waters of the lake are not impaired. Michigan, however, has declared that the lake is impaired.

The groups argue that harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, an annual event, have impaired the lake’s waters. Hundreds of thousands of people in Toledo were told not to drink the water in August 2014 after toxins from that year’s HAB poisoned the water supply.

An attorney involved in the lawsuit says that designating the lake as impaired would force stronger action to deal with harmful algal blooms.

“U.S. EPA illegally gave Ohio a pass on its obligation to recognize that harmful algal blooms are impacting more than just a few limited areas of Lake Erie,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney in Columbus, Ohio, for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

READ MORE

 

Greenwire: Enviros Sue EPA Over Approving Ohio’s Lake Erie Plan

Greenwire
Enviros sue EPA over approving Ohio’s Lake Erie plan
By Ariel Wittenberg

In May, EPA approved Ohio EPA’s 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, which found that certain sections of Lake Erie were “impaired,” a designation that has legal implications under the Clean Water Act.

Groups sued EPA to force a decision on the report. Now the Environmental Law & Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie are challenging that approval, filing a complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The groups say that Ohio wrongly limited its impairment finding to shorelines and areas near drinking water intakes and that the open waters of Lake Erie are also impaired by the toxic algae blooms that have plagued the lake for many years. EPA, they say, approved Ohio’s determination without enough analysis.

“U.S. EPA rubber-stamped something that Ohio did that is not going to protect water quality in Lake Erie and isn’t fully recognizing a serious problem that the federal government is supposed to have a role in solving,” said a statement.

READ MORE

PRESS RELEASE: Environmental Groups Sue EPA for Rubber-stamping Ohio EPA’s Refusal to Call Open Waters of Lake Erie “Impaired”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact: Judith Nemes

July 18, 2017                                                                                                                                                                               

 Environmental Groups Sue EPA for Rubber-stamping Ohio EPA’s Refusal to Call Open Waters of Lake Erie “Impaired”

 ELPC warns nutrient pollution reduction won’t occur without comprehensive approach to algal bloom problem

Toledo, OH – Today, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and co-plaintiffs Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie (ACLE), Susan Matz, and Michael Ferner sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a federal court in Ohio to challenge its decision to approve Ohio EPA’s refusal to assess whether the open waters of Lake Erie are “impaired” under the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo against the EPA, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan. The environmental groups charge the open waters of Lake Erie should be designated impaired under the Clean Water Act because harmful algal blooms that form there most years are preventing those waters from meeting basic state water quality standards.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has already designated the entire neighboring portion of Lake Erie within its boundaries as “impaired” by the same algal blooms.

“U.S. EPA illegally gave Ohio a pass on its obligation to recognize that harmful algal blooms are impacting more than just a few limited areas of Lake Erie,” said Madeline Fleisher, ELPC’s staff attorney in Columbus, Ohio. “The impairment designation is a key first step in the Clean Water Act’s process for addressing serious water quality issues. Without the impairment designation, Ohio is likely to continue relying on unenforceable, voluntary measures to reduce phosphorus pollution that won’t do enough to fix the problem.”

Ohio EPA recognized that algal bloom problems are impairing Lake Erie’s shoreline and areas which are used as a source of public drinking water. However, the agency refused to address the algal blooms’ effects on the full extent of the lake’s waters even though it’s a single water body.

The blooms can produce toxins that make people and pets seriously ill when ingested, and can also harm aquatic species by poisoning water or using up oxygen to create “dead zones” in the lake. The algal blooms are caused by phosphorus pollution that primarily comes from manure and fertilizer running off of agricultural land.

“The lake isn’t ‘sort of’ impaired in a couple places — it’s impaired throughout the western basin,” said Mike Ferner, ACLE coordinator. “Public officials need to acknowledge it will take mandatory steps to get Lake Erie back to health. Toledo spent tens of millions of dollars on chemicals and new facilities to decontaminate our drinking water after hundreds of factory farms in the watershed use it as their toilet.”

Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Administration released an action plan for reducing nutrient pollution in Lake Erie, which contributes to toxic algae blooms that can endanger drinking water and make it unsafe for recreation. The plan was criticized for proposing very little action beyond voluntary measures that aren’t enough to achieve Ohio’s 40% phosphorus reduction commitment under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement intended to clean up the Great Lakes.

###

Christian Science Monitor: Battle Over the Clean Water Rule; What’s at Stake?

Christian Science Monitor

Battle over the Clean Water Rule: What’s at stake?

By Amanda Paulson

Just who gets to regulate America’s many seasonal streams and wetlands?

That’s a question that has long been contentious.

At the end of June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt formally proposed revoking the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, also known as the “Waters of the US” rule, or WOTUS.

Mr. Pruitt was acting on an executive order signed by President Trump back in February. And depending on whom you talk to, the move to repeal the rule is either an environmental disaster that opens up America’s waterways to pollution and development and puts Americans’ drinking water at risk, or a common-sense action that gets rid of a rule particularly despised by many farmers, ranchers, and developers and returns regulatory authority to states.

Q: What is the rule?

The term “Waters of the United States” comes from the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act. The 2015 Clean Water Rule was designed to provide long-sought guidance on just which “navigable waters” fall under federal jurisdiction and are covered by the protections in that act.

Some waters, including permanent rivers and streams, clearly meet the definition. But many wetlands, seasonal streams, and ditches don’t necessarily qualify: They’re not connected to US waterways much of the time, even though they may ultimately feed into them.

In a 2006 US Supreme Court ruling to determine the jurisdiction, Rapanos v. United States, the court was split. Four conservative justices, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, offered a constrained definition that includes only “relatively permanent bodies of water.” Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred, but added that it should also include wetlands and intermittent streams that have a “significant nexus” to those waters – an opinion that has largely governed decisions since.

The Clean Water Rule carried over existing exemptions for things like agriculture and ranching. It has never taken effect, as lawsuits from states (including one involving Mr. Pruitt when he was Oklahoma attorney general) are working their way through the courts.

Q: What change is the EPA proposing?

The rule the EPA has put forward – currently in the 30-day comment period – would mean going back to the standards used 10 years ago. Since the Clean Water Rule is currently under a stay, it wouldn’t actually change practice on the ground.

There’s also some question about whether the repeal is fully legal – and it’s likely to be challenged in court. The EPA “can’t declare that within 30 days it’s going to stop following the law and ignore the standards that have been adopted” through long-standing administrative procedure, says Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which supports the Clean Water Rule.

READ MORE

Crain’s Chicago Business: House Panel Rejects Trump’s Great Lakes Cuts

House Panel Rejects Trump’s Great Lakes Cuts

By Greg Hinz

With a big assist from a bipartisan pair of lawmakers from Ohio, it looks like plans by the Trump administration to slash funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are on the way to being derailed.

As previously reported, Trump proposed cutting the program—which pays for everything from sewage treatment plants in Milwaukee and water-permeable concrete in Uptown to electronic barriers to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan—a whopping 97 percent. Trump aides said that and other kinds of spending have to go to make room for tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

​ But yesterday, GOP Rep. David Joyce and Democratic colleague Marie Kaptur, both from the Toledo area, convinced the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to include the normal $300 million in the pending fiscal 2018 federal budget.

The action is only “a first step,” said Howard Learner, head of the Environmental Law & Policy Center here. But the full appropriations committee likely will go along with the subcommittee, and traditionally so does the full House. It’s worth noting that House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin comes from a lakefront district.

READ MORE

 

PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends U.S. House Committee’s Action to Fully Fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact: Judith Nemes                                                                                                                                                       ELPC Commends U.S. House Committee’s Action to Fully Fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 

 STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to the U.S. House Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee acting to fully fund the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 Environmental Protection Agency’s budget:

“This is a big first step forward for protecting the Great Lakes and achieving full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee rejected President Trump’s zeroing out FY 2018 budget funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  With bipartisan support, the Committee restored the full $300 million of funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

“Since GLRI was launched in 2010, it has provided vital funding to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI projects also protect safe clean drinking water for 42 million people and support a $62 billion economy based on fishing, boating, and recreational activities.  That’s great value for all of us who live, work and play in and around the Great Lakes.

“Members of Congress across the Midwest heard loud and clear from their constituents that the Trump Administration’s completely eliminating GLRI funding in the FY 2018 is a bad idea.  We especially thank Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Marci Kaptur (D-OH) for their leadership in supporting the $300 million of appropriations for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative programs.

“Unfortunately, the House Subcommittee also carries out the Trump Administration’s harsh EPA budget cuts that will compromise the EPA’s ability to advance healthier clean air and protect safe, clean drinking water protections that are vitally important to our health.   The American people deserve better protection than that for our core clean air and clean water values.”

###

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          Contact: Judith Nemes

July 6, 2017                                                                      

 

Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

ELPC & Groundwork Gathering in Traverse City Urge Attendees to Fight Back Against Trump Administration’s War on the Great Lakes 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI. – Michiganders gathered in Traverse City today to hear two Midwest environmental leaders present strategies to push back on threats to the progress of restoring the Great Lakes and safe clean drinking water. They focused on countering the Trump Administration’s proposed complete elimination of $300 million in funding for the bipartisan-supported Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 budget, which has provided $2.2 billion for about 3,000 projects since its inception, and persuading Michigan policymakers to decide on an alternative to the dangerous Line 5 pipeline.

“President Trump won his election in the pivotal Great Lakes states, but his misguided policies and practices amount to a War on the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Trump Administration is eliminating funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, rolling back Clean Water standards and reconsidering the additions to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to understand how much Michiganders care about protecting the Great Lakes where we live, work and play, and which provides safe clean drinking water for 42 million people.”

Hans Voss, Executive Director of Traverse City’s Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and a leader in the campaign to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill from the Line 5 pipeline, urged attendees to comment this month on safer alternatives proposed by the State Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

“The time for state decision-makers to study and debate what to do about the Line 5 pipeline is over,” said Voss. “Now is the time for citizens to speak up and push for lawmakers to shut down the pipeline once and for all.”

The gathering took place at the Bluewater Event Center in Traverse City.

###

 

Reuters: ELPC’s Learner Says EPA Rollback of Clean Water Rule Imperils Safe Clean Drinking Water

Reuters
EPA and Army Corps seek to rescind clean water rule
June 27, 2017
By Valerie Volcovici 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a proposal on Tuesday to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the latest move by the Trump administration to unwind environmental regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama.

The agencies are working to rescind the rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, and reinstate the language of the rule before it was changed in 2015.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

In 2015, EPA and the Army Corps issued what they called the Waters of the United States rule to clarify which bodies of water should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The act, passed in 1972 and last amended in 1987, is intended to protect the nation’s waters from pollution.

In February, President Donald Trump said during the signing of an executive order calling for a review of the rule that the act should apply only to navigable waters that affect interstate commerce.

Some lawmakers from states with large rural areas praised the move.

“Out of state D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t impose regulations that hurt Montana farmers, ranchers and landowners,” said the state’s Republican senator, Steve Daines.

Environmental groups criticized the move, saying it ignores public input and would put parts of the country like the Midwestern Great Lakes at risk.

“This foolish rollback of clean water standards rejects years of work building stakeholder input and scientific data support, and it imperils the progress for safe clean drinking water in the Midwest,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

READ MORE

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

 

 

Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

By Peter Krause

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a list of impaired waters in Ohio, but to the disappointment of environmentalists, it doesn’t include the open waters of Lake Erie.

Designating the lake as “impaired” is critical to stemming the encroachment of harmful algal blooms, said Frank Szollosi. The category would require the state of Ohio to work with the U.S. EPA to develop a concrete plan to remediate the problem.

But the Ohio EPA did not include Erie’s open waters on a list of impaired waterways when it submitted it to the U.S. EPA last fall. The U.S. EPA approved the list May 18.

What frustrates Ohio environmentalists further is that Michigan included western Lake Erie on its list of impaired waters. That was approved by the U.S. EPA.

“This is not sensible,” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur said in a statement Tuesday. Kaptur, a Democrat, represents a swath of shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland. “There is no imaginary line in the middle of Lake Erie where one side of the lake faces challenges that don’t impact the other side… Eleven million people depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water and this contradictory action fails to address the real danger they face from the presence of toxic algal blooms.”

A spokesperson for the Ohio EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal Clean Water Act sets a standards for impaired waters, Szollosi said. In the case of algae blooms and nutrient loading, the U.S. EPA would require that the sources and amounts of nutrients be identified and limits set.

“We want a legally enforceable measuring stick for progress,” he said.

Without the official limits, Szollosi said voluntary incentives simply won’t work.

Incentives were applied to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay for 20 years, he said, but not until pollution standards were put in place did any meaningful reduction of nutrients occur.

In Lake Erie, the major problem is farm fertilizers running off into the lake, primarily by way of the Maumee River in Toledo. Three years ago, 400,000 Toledo area residents were temporarily without drinking water after harmful toxins from algal blooms fouled the water supply.

Algae that spreads into the central basin of the lake can also create a massive dead zone.

The phosphorus in the fertilizer is the main problem, according to Jeff Reutter, former director of the Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program and Stone Lab, who discussed the issue with cleveland.com this month during a water summit in Cleveland sponsored by the Cleveland Water Alliance.

Other stewards of Lake Erie have are as indignant as Szollosi over Lake Erie being excluded from the list of impaired waters.

“The waters of the Great Lakes are the most critical asset we have,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, in a prepared statement. “We are disappointed in the EPA decision to all Ohio to keep the status quo. Michigan can’t address Lake Erie’s issues alone. There must be a collective action and commitment to solve it.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center also weighed in. “By passing the buck back and forth, EPA and Ohio EPA are ducking the real issue that Ohio’s reliance on unenforceable, voluntary measures will not get the job done in addressing phosphorus pollution in Lake Erie,” reads a written statement from center staff attorney Madeline Fleisher.

READ MORE

 

 

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 20 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now