CSPA Joins in Pattern & Practice Lawsuit: State & Regional Water Boards Fail to Protect Water from Agricultural Pollution

CSPA, in coalition with other environmental and trade organizations, filed a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board asserting the Boards have failed to protect clean water from agricultural pollution. The lawsuit filed in early August, claims that the boards have repeatedly failed to enforce clean water rules designed to limit pollution from excess fertilizer, pesticides and manure. This unchecked agricultural pollution is washing into streams and ultimately out to sea, and is seriously contaminating the state’s groundwater.

This dereliction of duty by the Boards jeopardizes the safety of public drinking water, as well as the health of rivers, coastal waters and fisheries.

Agricultural pollution is the primary culprit for unsafe water that burdens both urban and rural communities, sickening people and driving up water treatment costs. Additionally, this pollution threatens fishing, tourism, and recreation jobs and businesses.

The coalition of conservation, environmental justice and industry groups believe “[T]he State Board has engaged and continues to engage in a pattern and practice of systematically failing to comply with its legal obligations under state law…”

In 2013, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted its first “Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Irrigated Agriculture” (Ag Order), but acknowledged it was ineffective since it didn’t include conditions consistent with typical orders to control waste discharges from industries or activities affecting water quality in a similar level of severity. A coalition of groups, including CSPA, challenged the 2013 Ag Order in court and won. The judge ordered the State and Regional Boards to create a new Ag Order, consistent with the law. The State and numerous agricultural groups appealed the ruling which is currently awaiting a court date.

Knowing that the 2013 Ag Order was legally deficient in many ways, the Central Coast Regional Board renewed a nearly identical Ag Order in March 2017. A coalition of organizations petitioned the regional decision to the State Board which declined to review the petition. As a result, the coalition proceeded with the current pattern and practice lawsuit. The State Board’s failure to review and correct the deficiencies in the 2017 Ag Order is illustrative of an ongoing pattern and practice whereby the State Board, through action or inaction, has declined and continues to decline to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility to ensure that agricultural discharges throughout the State comply with applicable laws.

The organizations taking action with CSPA include The Otter Project and Monterey Coastkeeper, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Santa Barbara Channel Keeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishing Associations, Orange County Coastkeeper, Inland Empire Waterkeeper, Institute for Fisheries Research and California Coastkeeper Alliance.

The Press Release is available here and the compliant can be viewed here.

Press Release: Conservation, Environmental Justice, and Industry Lawsuit Asserts Water Boars Failed to Protect Clean Water from Agricultural Pollution

Pattern & Practice Complaint

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