Last week, U.S. EPA notified the Washington Department of Ecology of its plans to rescind Obama-era Washington state water quality standards and return to previous standards. In 2016, the Obama EPA acted to update Washington water quality standards to better protect human health, including tribal communities.
Prior to EPA’s notification last week, the Washington Department of Ecology had sent a letter to EPA expressing concerns with the agency’s lack of engagement with both the state and tribes on this potential action. The letter states that because Washington has already spent over two years implementing the Obama-era standards, to change them now would only create regulatory confusion. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson also wrote to EPA in advance of the announcement, saying that EPA does not have any legal basis for a reconsideration of the standards.
EPA intends to initiate a notice and comment process through a separate notice of proposed rulemaking to withdraw the related federally promulgated human health criteria. Additional details are available in an EPA technical support document.