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Blue Water Baltimore v. Wheeler

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20189
Nos. 16-452 (RBW), (D.D.C., 12/02/2019) (Walton, J.)

A district court denied summary judgment in a challenge to EPA's approval of Maryland's 2018 water quality report, which reclassified 139 impairment listings based on TMDLs set by the Agency for the entire Chesapeake Bay. Environmental groups argued that EPA exceeded its authority under the CWA by approving the reclassifications without any evidence that its TMDLs ensured attainment of water quality standards within the listings. The court disagreed, finding that the CWA only required a state to identify the impaired waters within its jurisdiction and EPA to approve or disapprove such identification. The groups further argued the approval was arbitrary and capricious because Congress did not intend for states to be able to avoid establishing local, upstream TMDLs in favor of the TMDLs established by the Agency. The court again disagreed, finding that EPA's interpretation of the CWA—that it allows states to avoid local TMDLs if a larger-scale TMDL set pollutant levels aimed at achieving water quality standards in a different, downstream water body—was not arbitrary or capricious. It therefore concluded that EPA appropriately reclassified the listings because the TMDLs established by the Agency included TMDLs for those particular listings.