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Maryland joins multistate lawsuit over Trump wetlands ruling

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging a Trump administration decision that removes legal protections for many streams and wetlands.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging a Trump administration decision that removes legal protections for many streams and wetlands. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is suing the Trump administration over a ruling that narrows the definition of wetlands and streams that merit legal protections.

Frosh and 18 other attorneys general filed a lawsuit Friday in California federal court alleging that the revised definition will remove Clean Water Act protections for a “vast number of streams and wetlands.”

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Frosh, a Democrat, said the new definition represents the latest of the administration’s “relentless assault on environmental protections.”

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threw out an Obama-era rule that updated the definition of the “waters of the United States” that are covered by the Clean Water Act. Anyone seeking to affect those waters, such as by discharging pollution, dredging or filling with material, would need permits.

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The Obama rule, issued in 2015, included pockets of water that aren’t directly connected to big rivers and bays, such as streams that run intermittently and nearby wetlands.

The Trump administration instituted its own, more narrow definition this year that leaves out scores of streams and wetlands.

“Repeated efforts by the EPA to weaken water quality protections threaten the health of our rivers, streams, and lakes — potentially rolling back decades of hard-fought progress in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” Frosh said in a statement.

Frosh and the other attorneys general argue that when the federal government set the new definition, it illegally ignored prior scientific findings “without reasoned explanation.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed a similar lawsuit earlier in the week, calling the decision “nearsighted.”

The EPA has a policy not to comment on pending litigation.

But agency spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer has said the agency believes the new rule “will stand the test of time as it is securely grounded in the text of the Clean Water Act and is supported by legislative history and Supreme Court case law.”

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