Attorney General Balderas Files Lawsuit Challenging the Trump Administration’s Unlawful Assault on New Mexico’s Waterways

For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2020
Contact: Matt Baca — (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM—Attorney General Hector Balderas today, joined a coalition of 19
attorneys general, in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful
final rule redefining the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The
final rule continues the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to weaken water
quality protections under the Clean Water Act and narrow the definition of “waters of the
United States.” The new rule removes protections for all ephemeral streams, many
wetlands, and other waters that were previously covered under the Act. In the lawsuit,
the coalition argues that EPA’s rule directly conflicts with the text of the Clean Water
Act, Supreme Court precedent, and the EPA’s own scientific findings.
“New Mexico’s heritage, economy, and family safety relies on access to clean water in
our State,” said Attorney General Balderas. “This attack on one of our most valuable
and vulnerable resources is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight to protect New
Mexican families.”
The definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is critical to
maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control and water quality
protection that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has
resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding
objective has not yet been obtained. Many of the Nation’s waters remain polluted. The
2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama Administration provided much needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water Act protections by specifically
including within the scope of protected waters the headwaters of rivers and creeks as
well as other non-traditionally navigable waters, which have significant impact on
downstream water quality.
The 2020 rule narrows the definition of “waters of the United States” to eliminate federal
protections for many of states’ waterways, including waters that the state relies on for
drinking water, wildlife habitat, agriculture, and recreation. In the lawsuit, the coalition
highlights that exclusion of these waters directly harms states by increasing the risk of
pollution from less-protective jurisdictions; incentivizing polluters to relocate to states
with less stringent water quality protections; and disrupting state regulatory programs.
The coalition asserts that the 2020 rule is unlawful under the federal Administrative
Procedure Act because it:
• Contradicts the Clean Water Act’s objective of maintaining and restoring the
integrity of the Nation’s waters and the EPA’s own scientific findings;
• Arbitrarily and capriciously reduces and eliminates protections for ephemeral
streams, tributaries, adjacent waters, wetlands and other important water
resources that significantly affect downstream waters;
• Fails to comply with controlling Supreme Court precedent established in
Rapanos v. United States; and
• Lacks a reasoned explanation or rational basis for changing long-standing policy
and practice.
In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Balderas joins the attorneys general of California,
Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina,
Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, as well the California
State Water Resources Control Board, the North Carolina Department of Environmental
Quality, and the City of New York.

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