The rain just kept falling for the Environmental Protection Agency last week.
From an unexpected kick to the groin by the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, to continued blasting by lawmakers over the Flint water crisis, to its water rule and a toxic disaster in Colorado on Thursday, it's safe to say the agency had one of its hardest weeks ever.
It wasn't easy for the administration as whole, either. White House officials were some of the first to respond to the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, which halted the implementation of the centerpiece of the president's climate change agenda, the EPA's Clean Power Plan.
The court action followed a day of backslapping by the president and his cabinet over a new budget they released that made spending on climate change a key priority, including taxing oil companies to build a new clean transportation system and bumping up nearly all agencies' spending on renewable energy.
The high court's decision was a shock. But the White House remained defiant. After taking a few days to digest the news, President Obama on Thursday responded to the decision.
"We are very confident we are on strong legal footing here," Obama told supporters at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Atherton, Calif. "One of the reasons I want to talk about this is because in the last couple of days I've heard people say, 'The Supreme Court struck down the clean power plant rule.'
"That's not true, so don't despair, people," he added. "This is a legal decision that says, 'Hold on until we review the legality.'"
But the 29 states that petitioned the high court for relief don't see it that way. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the coalition, said Wednesday that such a stay would not be possible if the justices didn't at least look at the merits of their case against the EPA and thought there was a high chance of success.
The states will begin briefing the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals next week in an expedited proceeding in which the court has scheduled to hear oral arguments in June on the merits of their case. Until the appeals court makes a decision, the Supreme Court's stay will remain in place.
EPA officials discussed the news with a group of state officials in Washington holding a two-day workshop on how to comply with the Clean Power Plan. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressed extreme disappointment, while saying she will abide by the court's wishes.
Other EPA officials admitted that the stay could last far beyond the Obama administration, noting that the high court said the stay would remain until all court proceedings are finished, including those that would come to the court after the appeals court decision.
McCarthy echoed the president's comments.
"EPA remains fully confident in the legal merits of this rule," she said, adding that the Supreme Court's decision "doesn't mean they spoke to the merits."
She also mourned the fact that she would not be able to sign off on state compliance plans, required to be submitted by September, because the court stay has put a hold on all binding deadlines.
She went to the states to discuss the defeat, after spending an entire morning on Capitol Hill being grilled by lawmakers over the lead-contaminated water in the struggling city of Flint, Mich. The EPA director for the region that includes Flint resigned after admitting the EPA knew about dangerous levels of lead in the city's water, but did not disclose that information to the public.
EPA stepped in after an emergency manager appointed by the state for the city chose to use water from the contaminated Flint River to supply the city's drinking water to save money. The agency has come under harsh criticism for withholding information on the level of contamination. McCarthy made headlines Thursday for calling her regional head's decision to resign "courageous."
Emails released Friday From the state of Michigan showed that the EPA had planned to allow citizens of Flint to continue drinking lead contaminated water until at least 2016.
McCarthy also got pummeled by Republicans Thursday over the Waters of the United States regulations, which have been stayed by federal judges while litigation over the regulation's overreach moves forward. Critics say the water rule would extend EPA's Clean Water Act enforcement to private land owners by designating things like drainage ditches as waterways. Republicans have tried to undercut the water rule through a variety of unsuccessful riders and resolutions.
McCarthy was repeatedly questioned at the hearing about EPA's violation of federal anti-lobbying rules when the regulation was still in the public comment period. A report done by the Government Accountability Office detailed the violation, which both Democrats and Republicans questioned her on at the hearing.
"You broke the law," Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia, said at the hearing. He said that "needs to be admitted, it needs to be recognized and furthermore you spent taxpayer's money in the lobbying."
One of the largest gatherings of state utility commissioners in the country will take up a resolution by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners next week in Washington on making opposition to the Waters of the U.S. a core part of their advocacy on Capitol Hill.
The resolution would commend federal judges for implementing a nationwide stay on the final rule "until the harms that could be inflicted by the rule are measured and balanced," according to the utility regulatory association. James B. Ramsay, general counsel for the group, said the resolution will be reviewed by a committee on Monday. It's not a done deal until the board approves it, which could come Wednesday.
The resolution "urges the EPA to withdraw the final rule or, in the alternative, to propose a supplemental rule, subject to another round of public comments and additional cost-benefit analysis studies, particularly with respect to the impact of the rule on the activities of power generators and regulated utilities," according to a summary.
Immediately after McCarthy left the House agriculture committee room where she was testifying Thursday, her agency got another punch to the chest from a report on an August mine disaster it caused. The report painted a picture of the agency attempting to cover up negligence by ignoring advice that would have prevented a 3 million-gallon blowout of toxic sludge from an abandoned gold mine in Silverton, Colo. The report also said the agency cannot be trusted to conduct cleanup.
The spill sullied the waterways of three states, and litigation against the agency is being pursued.