News Releases

In a new letter to EPA, Washington state’s entire Democratic congressional delegation demands public hearings, accountability as the agency moves to withdraw WA’s finalized water quality standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), today Washington state’s Democratic congressional delegation, including Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Kim Schrier (D-WA, 8th), and Adam Smith (D-WA 9th), demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) follow through on its duty to seek public input on its proposal to withdraw Washington state’s water quality standards, also known as the ‘fish consumption’ rule.

The proposed rule would remove water quality standards that are currently in place in Washington state, and that were finalized in 2016 after extensive coordination between state agencies, tribes, local municipalities, and industry stakeholders—a move that could potentially jeopardize the clean water that millions of Washington families rely on. Additionally, Washingtonians have already begun the painstaking work of complying with the finalized water quality standards that the EPA seeks to withdraw. Currently, no physical hearings on the proposed rule have been scheduled in Washington state, and EPA has announced it plans to only solicit public opinion via “online public hearings,” which limits participation to individuals with reliable broadband internet access, and potentially runs afoul of rules governing public comment.

“The lack of any in-person public hearings on this matter of great public interest has the potential to undermine several bedrock laws imperative to the protection of our environment,” the members wrote. It is our shared concern that EPA’s proposed “online public hearings” undercut the spirit of public comment, limiting potential engagement to those with reliable broadband internet access, and could potentially violate regulations pertaining to the proper administration of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The members added: “This course of action also leads us to question EPA’s broader commitment to upholding the federal government’s responsibility to engage in government-to-government consultation on an issue of critical importance to Washington state’s 29 federally-recognized tribes.”

Read the lawmakers’ letter below or HERE.

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20460

 

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

 

We write to express our concern with the lack of in-person public hearings for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Withdrawal of Certain Federal Human Health Criteria in Washington proposed rule. In light of the undeniable importance of public participation in this process, we ask that in-person public hearings in Region 10 be scheduled on this matter immediately.

Finalized in 2016, the water quality standards presently in place represent the extensive work between state agencies, tribes, local municipalities, and industry stakeholders to come to a consensus on a path forward regarding this issue. This deliberative process included robust public input, rigorous scientific data collection, and extended engagement between EPA and all parties with a vested interest.  Affected entities have already begun the painstaking work of implementing these new standards across Washington state. Resources have already been expended to bring communities into compliance with these finalized standards. To deny those same communities a voice in the proposed withdrawal of these standards would be a direct abdication of EPA’s responsibilities. 

Additionally, the lack of any in-person public hearings on this matter of great public interest has the potential to undermine several bedrock laws imperative to the protection of our environment. It is our shared concern that EPA’s proposed “online public hearings” undercut the spirit of public comment, limiting potential engagement to those with reliable broadband internet access, and could potentially violate regulations pertaining to the proper administration of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. This course of action also leads us to question EPA’s broader commitment to upholding the federal government’s responsibility to engage in government-to-government consultation on an issue of critical importance to Washington state’s 29 federally-recognized tribes.

Accordingly, we ask that you schedule in-person public hearings on this matter immediately, at times and locations conducive to the participation of our constituents. We also ask that you detail your efforts toward engaging in tribal government-to-government consultation on this matter. Given the sensitive nature of this issue and EPA’s ongoing efforts to schedule inadequate formats for public input, we respectfully ask that you schedule and publicly notice these in-person sessions by July 31, 2019.

We look forward to your swift attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

###