Shared from the 4/26/2017 Sandusky Register eEdition


EPA sued over Lake Erie’s status


Environmental groups and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, citing the agency’s failure to declare whether or not Lake Erie’s waters are “impaired.”

The groups say the U.S. EPA has failed to do its job and make a decision on the matter. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the EPA to make a ruling.

Declaring Lake Erie is “impaired” because of the lake’s annual harmful algal bloom problem would require Lake Erie states, such as Ohio and Michigan, to join with the federal government to put an action plan in place under the Clean Water Act to address the problem.

Ohio had made a ruling on the matter — the state ruled the lake’s coastal waters are impaired but not the open waters of the lake — but the EPA failed to meet a deadline on whether to accept Ohio’s decision or overrule it, the environmental groups contend.

An impaired designation would mandate the EPA take steps to try to fix the problem, explained Jordan Lubetkin, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, in a December interview.

“At the end of the day, it would be more money, resources, expertise,” he said.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the National Wildlife Federation, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Erie Erie Charter Boat Association, Lake Erie Foundation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Ohio Environmental Council. The defendants are the U.S. EPA, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and Robert Kaplan, acting regional administrator for the EPA in Chicago.

The lawsuit follows through on a threat the groups made in December, when they announced they would file a Citizen Enforcement Lawsuit to enforce a provision of the Clean Water Act. Under the law, the groups had to give 60-day notice and give the agency time to act before going to court.

“Delay threatens Lake Erie and businesses like ours,” said Capt. Paul Pacholski, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. “Charter boat captains are counting on the U.S EPA to step up and do its job, because this problem will not go away on its own. The health of our business depends on the health of Lake Erie.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. EPA’s regional office in Chicago declined comment Tuesday.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation,” said Anne Rowan.

Reach reporter Tom Jackson at jackson@sanduskyregister. com and follow him on Twitter @jacksontom.

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