Federal Judge Orders EPA To Respond To Request By Environmental Groups

Spencer, IA: A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must respond to a five-year-old request from environmental groups to consider tougher pollution controls in the Mississippi River basin.

Judge Jay Zainey gave the EPA six months to determine whether it will set Clean Water Act standards for nitrogen and phosphorus in all U.S. waterways, or explain why they are not needed.

EPA had argued the court didn’t have jurisdiction to review the agency’s decision not to exercise its rule-making authority under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups countered that EPA was seeking a sweeping exemption from oversight by the federal courts.

The U.S. Justice Department sided with the EPA, saying it would be more effective to fight water pollution by working with the states on plans, like Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

It’s the second time in as many weeks a federal judge has handed down a ruling on EPA oversight in a major watershed. Last week a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled EPA has authority to supervise how six states and the District of Columbia carry out their management plans to meet the water-quality standards.