Environmental groups sue EPA for failing to approve petition to lower pollution into Gulf

Michelle Keahey Mar. 30, 2012, 4:17am

Lee Hall

NEW ORLEANS - Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the EPA after the agency allegedly failed to approve a petition to lower pollution into the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The groups claim that excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution into these waters have resulted in the largest North American "dead zone."

Gulf Restoration Network, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Iowa Environmental Council, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. filed the lawsuit on March 13 in federal court in New Orleans.

The lawsuit concerns the EPA's July 29, 2011 denial of a 2008 petition submitted pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The petition asked for revised or new state water quality standards and total maximum loads to address excessive nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the waters of the Mississippi River Basin and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, the excessive nutrient pollution in the waters causes or contributes to a massive low-oxygen "dead zone" in the Gulf and extensive water quality degradation.

"The Gulf's dead zone is the largest in North America and the second largest in the world," the lawsuit states.

The environmental groups claim that the EPA's denial of their petition and the failure to promulgate nutrient standards for the water within the Mississippi River Basin and northern Gulf of Mexico has resulted in their injury, as their members are not able to use and enjoy the water.

The environmental groups are asking the court to declare that EPA's denial of the petition was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

The environmental groups are represented by Machelle Lee Hall and Adam Babich of Tulane Environmental Law Clinic in New Orleans, Thomas Cmar and Ann Alexander of Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, and Bradley Klein of Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:12-cv-00677

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