Note: This article has been updated to include a comment from the Environmental Protection Agency, which was provided after the article was first published.
The Virginia Department of Transportation and Fairfax County on Thursday sued the Environmental Protection Agency over regulations so strict that they define water itself as a pollutant and would force state and local officials to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to clean it up.
Instead of regulating the flow of pollutants as allowed by the Clean Water Act, the lawsuit says, the EPA is trying to regulate the amount of water that can flow through the Accotink Creek in Fairfax.
VDOT and Fairfax said in a statement that the EPA requirements would actually make the Accotink water worse, while costing VDOT $70 million and Fairfax between $405 million and $510 million.
The lawsuit represents an odd partnership between Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite who has publicly warred with the EPA before, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, a predominantly Democratic group that was named the EPA's "Green Power Partner" in 2007 because it bought so much wind-generated power.
"Fairfax County has demonstrated a strong and unwavering commitment to water quality and environmental stewardship during the last six decades," said Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. "We are absolutely committed to maintaining and improving water quality in Fairfax County and the Chesapeake Bay. However, we believe that regulations, whether federally or state-imposed, must effectively address the targeted problem and be fiscally sound and realistic."
The requirements would force VDOT to build new facilities on private property that the state would have to seize through eminent domain, state officials said.
"The EPA is effectively forcing VDOT to regulate [water] runoff from property that it neither owns nor controls," VDOT said in a statement.
The EPA tried to regulate the flow of water in three Missouri waterways, and all three cases are being challenged in federal court, the Virginia agencies noted.
"EPA is currently reviewing the lawsuit," the agency said Friday morning. "The agency established this science-based [water flow limit] to ensure the health of the Accotink Creek. The [limit] is supported by sound science and well within our authority under the Clean Water Act."