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AG Reyes Pushes Back Against EPA Regulations

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a comment letter, led by the State of Tennessee, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Act (EPA) regarding two proposed regulations—the pesticide registration review for Ethylene Oxide (EtO) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the related emissions standards promulgated under the Clean Air Act (Proposed Regulations).

According to the letter, “EtO is key to sterilizing medical devices—and there are no substitutes.” The States assert that “any regulation of EtO use and emissions threatens the medical device supply chain and thus the provision of healthcare” in their jurisdictions. They ask the EPA to “not promulgate or—at the very least, extend the compliance period for—the Proposed Regulations.”

The States argue that the Proposed Regulations “do not properly reflect their disruptive effect on the medical device supply chain; do not account for important reliance interests; that there is no reason to engage in the environmental justice analysis in the Proposed Regulations; and that the EPA should reconsider the Proposed Regulations to ensure they comply with the proper scope of federal authority under the Commerce Clause.”

General Reyes issued the following statement: “Yet again, the federal government unnecessarily risks disrupting the American economy and supply chain. Bureaucrats who never owned, ran or invested in a business now jeopardize a whole industry — not because they should but merely because they can. With a global pandemic barely in the rearview mirror, the EPA is attempting to force theoretical and untested technologies into America’s most effective system for sterilizing surgical instruments. This unproven overregulation is not only invasive and disruptive, it will endanger more people than it will help. Rather than coercion through myopic regulation, natural market pressures will do the work with less disruption, less error, and less cost. My colleagues and I will continue to protect our constituents and hold the federal bureaucracy accountable to the rule of law.”

In their letter, the attorneys general wrote: “The Proposed Regulations are contrary to this administration’s policies. As the COVID-19 pandemic showed, there is a pressing need for ‘adequate domestic stockpiles [of medical products] and capable domestic suppliers with surge capacity.’ So the Department of Health and Human Services is working ‘to build domestic manufacturing capacity’ to address ‘the lack of on- or near-shore manufacturing’ of health products. Increasing costs on medical device sterilizers, as the Proposed Regulations will, undermines that policy.”

Joining Tennessee and Utah on this letter were the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Read the Tennessee letter here.

AG Reyes joins 25 states opposing President Biden’s attack on gas-powered vehicles

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the challenge to the Biden Administration’s most radical tailpipe emissions regulations yet. The President’s plan would forcibly phase out gas-powered vehicles and restructure the automobile industry around electric vehicles (EVs) at an accelerated pace. This draconian proposal aims to increase certain EV sales from 8.4% to 67% by 2032.

Utah is one of 25 state attorneys general who signed the letter opposing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan, arguing the move would damage our economy, undermine electrical grid reliability, tax families and businesses, and threaten our national security. 

The states argue that the aggressive shift to EVs is counterproductive and misguided. America’s power grids lack the capacity to accommodate the proposed rule’s heightened demands and are nowhere near secure enough to handle them safely. The EPA’s plan hinders American energy independence and makes the country less secure.

The attorneys general highlight how the Biden Administration’s fast-and-furious approach to electrification will have devastating consequences for the automotive supply chain. America would be weaker and more dependent on foreign adversaries such as China, which supplies many minerals needed for electric vehicles.

The average EV sold for $61,448 in 2022. Now is not the time for the federal government to significantly complicate the car manufacturing process and raise the average price. Today, consumers experience record inflation, historic gasoline prices, and high utility bills. Since President Biden took office, food prices have been up 18% and energy prices are over 37%. Further, home prices have risen more than 27% in three years. Even if consumers wanted EVs, many couldn’t afford them.

The letter is led by Kentucky Attorney General Cameron and West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey. Also joining are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.

Landmark Settlement Case Announced in Gold King Mine Legal Case

August 5, 2020

Ground-breaking Deal Protects Future Water Quality; Concludes Intense Negotiations

SALT LAKE CITY—Today, the Office of the Utah Attorney General announces a landmark settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will provide more than $220 million for remediation efforts in historic mining districts that pose an ongoing threat to Utah’s waterways and environment. The State of Utah will join forces with the EPA to monitor and clean-up these mining areas, even those located in other states.
Additionally, the State of Utah will receive $3 million in water quality grants from the federal government for projects located in Utah. Further, the EPA will initiate and bear the cost for evaluations at multiple Utah sites (costs per site may exceed $200,000) to determine if further remediation is necessary.
In exchange for all these benefits, the State will dismiss its tort and CERCLA claims against the EPA and EPA contractors. While the past five years of water monitoring shows no sign of impact to public health or the environment, the settlement with EPA allows this case to be re-instated if future evidence of harm due to the blowout emerges.
This deal ends a lawsuit filed after mine waste spilled from the Bonita Peak Mining District’s Gold King Mine in 2015. An EPA contractor accidentally caused the release of millions of gallons of toxic water which flowed into the Animas and San Juan rivers, also impacting Lake Powell in August of that year. 
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes says the deal will ensure that future generations are protected from toxic mine waste in the affected area and other abandoned mines in and outside the state by gaining unique concessions that ensure action from the EPA, and which will allow the State of Utah to partner with the agency on projects that would otherwise be ignored in the foreseeable future. 
Important facts about the current status of the Gold King Mine Accident:

  1. The Surface Water is Clean:  DEQ has been monitoring the San Juan River and Lake Powell since the release in 2015. There is no evidence that the metals from the release are impacting public health or the environment.  DEQ continues to conduct studies on the sediments in Lake Powell to ensure no long-term impacts.  DEQ also continues to work with EPA and other jurisdictions to resolve abandoned mine discharges throughout the San Juan River watershed.
  2. Assurances for Future Water Quality: Also in the settlement, EPA has committed to providing $3 million in water quality grants to the Division of Water Quality. These water quality grants will be used to address challenging water quality problems in Utah such as harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake, protection of Utah’s drinking water aquifers, and incentivizing pollution reduction from unregulated agricultural sources. 

Response from Chief Criminal Deputy Spencer EAustin (who oversaw day-to-day operations of the case):

“Utah is fortunate Attorney General Reyes has such extensive environmental and complex-litigation experience. He was actively involved in this case and aggressively litigated and then aggressively negotiated a very favorable outcome on behalf of the people of Utah.

“Over my 45-year legal career trying cases, including my former partners and I handling some of the largest environmental cases in the nation, I have never seen a more favorable settlement for a plaintiff who, like the State of Utah in this case, ultimately lacked evidence of damages. In tort cases, you not only have to prove someone did something wrong, you must prove there is actual harm or damages resulting directly from that wrongdoing. Without evidence of harm to public health or the environment after years of monitoring, the State would have a difficult time at best proving its damages.

“Here, the State is trading away the uncertainty of an increasingly difficult case that would cost millions of dollars over many more years in exchange for the certainty of immediate benefits that will directly protect and positively impact Utah now and into the future.

“The State is getting a unique mix of assets: significant remediation commitments for very real threats, cash for Utah water quality projects, environmental monitoring and testing paid for by the EPA, assurances that Utah has a seat at the table for important decisions about mitigation in areas even outside our state borders and the safety net of being able to re-open the case should evidence of harm begin to arise.

“We anticipate difficult economic times ahead due to the COVID-19 crisis, and our settlement solidifies these commitments ahead of any kinds of cuts or reorganizations in the federal government.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office would like to thank the Governor, the Utah Legislature, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Division of Water Quality for their support in this case. We would particularly like to acknowledge the hard work from leadership and many others at Utah DEQ, DWQ the Attorney General’s Office, outside counsel Peter Hsiao, and those at the EPA, who assisted in and will work on mitigation efforts moving forward. ”

Response from Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:

“After years of intense litigation and negotiations, we are very pleased that millions of dollars can now be spent towards mitigation, remediation and assuring water quality in Utah rather than years of more litigation, trial and appeals. This is what cooperative federalism looks like—a true federal and state partnership.

“Protecting the people, public health and environment of the State has always been the top priority in this case. Our two goals were simple.  First, get the federal government to clean-up massive amounts of waste still lurking in many historic mining districts including the one that caused the Gold King Mine blowout.

“We have achieved that goal through litigation and now settlement. We are highly encouraged the EPA has stepped up and committed hundreds of millions of dollars toward cleaning-up several dangerous mining districts containing billions of gallons of potentially harmful substances that threaten Utah if they are released. Further, our agreement with the EPA allows Utah to work as a partner in the remediation and monitoring of these areas to help ensure the State’s best interests are protected.

“Our second goal in filing our case was to ensure our federal partners paid for any harm caused by the blowout. We had to file our case when we did and litigate as aggressively as we did with the facts we had at the time. We had to assume the worst–that long-term monitoring would eventually show harmful effects to health and the environment–and that such effects would coincide with illnesses and other impacts directly traceable to the Gold King Mine blowout.

“Over time, though, as consistent monitoring and Utah’s own top water quality experts determined no harmful impacts occurred, and no detriment to human, animal or plant life manifested, our ability to prevail at trial diminished significantly.

“We would have expended several millions of dollars on both sides continuing litigation to trial and inevitable appeals. But we thought putting money towards remediation instead of litigation made more sense; particularly in light of our own COVID-19 budget constraints and the likelihood that we may not prevail at trial.

“Again, this is the best possible outcome for Utah given the reality of the facts and the evolution of this case. We thank the EPA for seeing the merits of settlement and for its cooperation in crafting this resolution that truly benefits both sides.”

Response from Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director, Scott Baird:

“This settlement will enable DEQ to improve and protect water quality and human health across the state. The staff, scientists and engineers at Utah DEQ work tirelessly to safeguard and improve Utah’s air land and water. We are pleased that EPA has taken responsibility and is committed to working with Utah.”

Key Elements of Settlement:

  • Prior to the settlement agreement, Utah’s Office of the Attorney General recovered the majority of the state agencies actual response costs following the Gold King Mine release. This totaled more than $500,000. This amount is in addition to the recovery under the settlement.
  • A commitment from the EPA to pay for costs of ongoing Superfund (CERCLA) response actions in the Bonita Peak Mining District and other mining sites upstream from Utah in an amount expected to be more than $220 million. While funds will not be paid directly to the State, they will be used specifically to mitigate direct threats to Utah, eliminating or reducing discharges from the mines and improve downstream surface water quality in Utah. Utah will be gaining the benefit of more than $220 million in remediation expenditures.
  • A “seat at the table” for Utah in ongoing and planned remedial actions in the Bonita Peak Mining district and other contaminated areas. The EPA will provide Utah meaningful and substantial involvement in the Superfund response actions at the Bonita Peak Mining District to improve downstream water quality. This type of official collaboration for a site located in another state is rather unprecedented.
  • Also in the settlement, EPA has committed to providing $3 million in water quality grants to the Division of Water Quality. These water quality grants will be used to address challenging water quality problems in Utah such as harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake, protection of Utah’s drinking water aquifers, and incentivizing pollution reduction from unregulated agricultural sources. If these grants for any reason are not provided to Utah, the State may reinstate the Lawsuit.
  • In addition to upstream response actions, EPA will initiate and pay for removal site evaluations in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons in Salt Lake County, in the Lisbon Valley area of San Juan County, and at the Ophir Mining District in Tooele County (each evaluation can cost $200,000 or more).  If it weren’t for this settlement, these site evaluations would likely not occur. Depending on the findings, the site evaluations may lead to other remedial actions which may further improve water quality in the San Juan River and Lake Powell.
  • Finally, the settlement provides a “re-opener” allowing for Utah’s Superfund (CERCLA) claims tied to the Gold King Mine release to be reinstated if new data demonstrates a risk to human health.

Questions and Answers

Q–Originally, the State asked for $1.9 billion dollars in damages.  What happened to that claim?
A–The $1.9 billion figure was based on a worst possible scenario; namely, the anticipated costs to dredge the San Juan river as well as Lake Powell and was based on past cleanup efforts at similar sites with sediment contamination in other states.

  1. It is not possible to definitively pinpoint damages in this case.  Because of the number of mines in the Bonita Peak Mining District that have been slowly leaching wastewater into the rivers over time, it is impossible to pinpoint which sediment is from the Gold King Mine Accident and which was already present.  Proving damages—a key element of this case—would have been difficult if not impossible to prove.
  2. Dredging the rivers and Lake Powell would be a very invasive, long and expensive process.  The runoff has settled into the bottom of the rivers and Lake Powell, where undisturbed, it is not posing harm.  Water quality monitoring of all the waterways have determined the water is safe for humans and is sustaining wildlife.  Dredging activity, however, would produce unpredictable results and would be potentially unwise as well as extremely expensive.

In summary, Utah filed a $1.9 billion claim for damages caused by heavy metals release into the San Juan River and Lake Powell. The claim was based on sediment remediation costs incurred at other sites and a “worst-case scenario” for the cleanup. It was necessary for Utah to file this complaint when it did due to the statute of limitations.  If the complaint had not been filed, the state would have lost its claims.
Q–What about the Native American Tribes and other states that have also been affected by the Gold King Mine accident?
A– Native American litigants are seeking their own legal action, which is pending. Colorado has decided not to pursue legal action. New Mexico’s case is currently pending.
Q–Is the water in the Animus, San Juan rivers and in Lake Powell safe?
A–Yes. And it has been since shortly after the blowout. All our monitoring has indicated no harm to humans, wildlife, plants or other biota. 
Q–Why did Utah file a claim if it’s been safe?
A—Utah officials did not know at the time what long term effects the blowout might have or how the results of initial monitoring might change. The relevant statute of limitations would not let us monitor for years before deciding to file a case. We had to file when we did to preserve our rights. 


Utah Attorney General and 10-state Coalition Obtains Victory in Blocking the 2015 WOTUS Rule

August 22, 2019


SALT LAKE CITY—Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Utah and 9 other states in their lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule and kept an injunction against the Rule in place while federal agencies finalize its replacement.

“The 2015 WOTUS Rule is a clear example for federal overreach that infringed on the States’ traditional role as primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We are proud to have fought for this relief, and we look forward to reforms that will permanently relieve farmers and landowners of the unnecessary burdens that the 2015 WOTUS Rule created.” 

In its ruling issued Wednesday afternoon, the court held that the 2015 WOTUS Rule “extend[ed] the Agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the [Clean Water Act]” in a number of ways and also violated multiple procedural requirements for issuing the Rule set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The court explained, “Congress has delegated the important role of protecting the nation’s waters to the Agencies, but in fulfilling that role, the Agencies must comply with the law. Here, they have failed to do just that.” As a result, the court left in place its preliminary injunction that blocks the rule from going into effect in any of the coalition states while the agencies “continue their efforts to change the WOTUS Rule in light of the serious defects identified in this Order.” 

Background: Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army proposed rules that would rescind and replace the 2015 WOTUS Rule. In April of this year, Utah joined 16 other states in submitting comments supporting that proposal. Read more here.

Led by the Georgia Solicitor General’s Unit, the 10-state coalition in this case also included the following states: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.



  1. Read a copy of the ruling here:

Gold King Lawsuit to Proceed Against Mine Owners for Environmental Damages

March 27, 2019

Latest rulings clear the path for the State of Utah’s lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY – Yesterday, a federal judge ordered the State of Utah’s lawsuit against three mine owners and one EPA contractor will proceed arising from their roles in causing the Gold King Mine Blowout in August 2015. The resulting massive spill of three-million gallons of toxic mining waste contaminated rivers in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation. Utah and other affected states and private parties assert that the EPA, its contractors, and the mining companies share responsibility for the release of hazardous wastes into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and in Lake Powell, causing one of the largest inland pollution events in the nation’s history.
Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico denied motions to dismiss filed by mining companies Sunnyside Gold Corporation, Kinross Gold USA and Kinross Gold Corporation, and EPA’s contractor Harrison Western Construction Corporation. He ruled the case will proceed under the Clean Water Act and Colorado tort law, among other laws, instead of applying Utah’s state civil penalty statutes. The Court also confirmed the availability of punitive damages. The Court rejected the companies’ arguments that they should escape liability for the Blowout.
“The Court’s decision is a win for our environment and for our efforts to protect the health and safety of the communities impacted by the Blowout,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “While we were forced to go to court, we prefer cooperation and urge the EPA and the other responsible parties to work together to clean up their contamination in Utah.”

“Our citizens and our environment benefit from this legal decision to move our case forward,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “We have a duty to enforce the environmental laws, to protect and preserve our natural resources, and to provide a legacy for future generations of Utahns.”
Yesterday’s decision is the third of a series of decisions Utah has won following similar rulings by the Court on February 29 and March 20, which denied motions to dismiss by EPA and its other contractors.

# # #


1. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico Memorandum Opinion and Order regarding Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold U.S.A Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss:

2. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico Memorandum Opinion and Order regarding Harrison Western Construction Corporation’s Motion to Dismiss State of Utah’s First Amended Complaint:

3. March 1, 2019 Utah Attorney General’s Office press release regarding the Court’s decision to deny the EPA’s arguments to avoid responsibility:

4. March 21, 2019 Utah Attorney General’s Office press release regarding the Court’s decision to deny the EPA’s contractors arguments to escape liability:

Track the media coverage below:

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah wins early rounds in lawsuit over 2015 Gold King Mine spill

Lawsuit Against EPA Contractors Responsible for Gold King Spill to Proceed

March 21, 2019


Lawsuit Against EPA Contractors Responsible for Gold King Spill to Proceed
Federal judge rebuffs effort by EPA’s contractors to escape liability

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge rejected efforts by EPA’s contractors to avoid responsibility for their role in causing the Gold King Mine Blowout, a massive spill of three-million gallons of toxic mining waste in August 2015 that contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The companies—Environmental Restoration LLC and Weston Solutions—were EPA’s contractors at the Gold King Mine, who participated in planning and performing the work that triggered the Blowout. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico denied the companies’ motions to dismiss lawsuits filed by the states and private parties, rejecting the companies’ arguments that they should not have to pay for the cleanup and environmental damages. The Court granted an uncontested portion of the motion related to claims by New Mexico and Navajo Nation for joint and several liability.
The lawsuits allege that EPA and its contractors caused the Blowout and its release of hazardous waste into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and in Lake Powell, resulting in one of the largest inland pollution events in the nation’s history. The Court rejected the contractor’s arguments to evade responsibility, followed its similar decision on February 29 to deny the EPA’s motion to dismiss.
“The Court’s decision is an important step towards restoring our environment and protecting the communities impacted by the Gold King Mine disaster,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “It’s time for the EPA and its contractors to accept responsibility and do what is right. Instead of wasting time and money on litigation, let’s turn attention and resources to cleaning up the contamination from the blowout.”
“EPA and its contractors must obey the rule of law that the ‘polluter pays’. This lawsuit is about holding them accountable,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The impact of their hazardous release may last for generations and cannot simply be abandoned in Utah. If they want to resolve this, they should immediately begin environmental remediation, instead of arguing in court to escape their responsibilities.”



1. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico Memorandum Opinion and Order: 

2. Two weeks ago, the Court made a similar ruling when Chief Judge William P. Johnson denied EPA’s request to escape liability for the Gold King Mine Blowout. Read the press release here:

Read the media coverage below:

Law 360: EPA Contractors Can’t Dodge Suit Over Gold King Mine Spill

Bloomberg News: EPA Contractors Face Cleanup Claims Over Gold King Mine Spill

Navajo Times: EPA’s motion to dismiss Gold King lawsuit denied

Gold King Lawsuit to Compel EPA Cleanup Will Proceed

March 1, 2019


Federal judge rejects EPA’s arguments to avoid responsibility

SALT LAKE CITY – Yesterday afternoon, a federal judge denied EPA’s request to escape liability for the Gold King Mine Blowout, a massive spill of three-million gallons of toxic mining waste in August 2015 that contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Chief Judge William P. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for New Mexico denied EPA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits filed by the states and private parties, rejecting EPA’s arguments that it was immune from liability for the cleanup and damages caused by the Blowout.  
EPA sought dismissal despite its prior public announcements that it accepted responsibility for the Blowout and had promised to work with the states to repair the damage. The Court pointed to Utah’s showing that EPA has taken no cleanup action in Utah to date and has no timetable to do so. EPA caused one of the largest inland pollution events in the nation’s history, causing hazardous wastes to be spread along the Animas and San Juan Rivers and in Lake Powell.
“This is a great victory for the environment and the communities affected by the Gold King Mine Blowout,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “Protecting the health of our families and the precious environment of Utah should be our shared goal with EPA. We would much prefer EPA to focus now on cleanup efforts rather than continuing to litigate.”
“The Court is sending a strong message that EPA must be held as equally responsible as other polluters to clean up its contamination,” said Sean D. Reyes, Utah Attorney General. “I understand these events occurred during a prior administration. But the current administration, rather than litigating, can resolve this by working with us to restore a clean environment, which is our legacy for the next generation of Utahns. Utah is only enforcing the type of environmental laws EPA is duty bound to uphold—the same type of laws EPA would be aggressively prosecuting if the polluters were private parties.”
The Court’s ruling comes on the same day as the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as EPA’s Administrator. A copy of the Court’s order and opinion is attached.

# # #


1. Federal District Court Judge William Johnson Memorandum Opinion and Order: 

2. Frequently asked questions regarding the Gold King Mine case can be read here: 

Attorney General Sean Reyes Joins 20-State Coalition Urging EPA to Respect the States in WOTUS Review

SALT LAKE CITY June 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a 20-state coalition in requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency preserve the role of the states in protecting the nation’s water sources.

The coalition filed its letter Monday as part of the EPA’s ongoing review of its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The attorneys general outlined regulatory overreach present in the existing rule and offered suggestions to better respect the authority of states going forward.

“The WOTUS Rule is unlawful…and significantly impinges upon the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” Attorney General Reyes joined in writing. “We write to suggest how the [EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] can write a rule that respects Congress’s instruction.”

The letter requests a concrete definition of the term “waters of the United States.” In doing so, it suggests the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should preserve the states’ role in protecting water resources, especially those within the border of individual states.

The attorneys general also suggest any final definition should adopt a framework consistent with Supreme Court precedent. That includes that federal agencies can only assert authority over permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features.

The letter expresses that rather than claiming jurisdiction over vast amounts of water and land, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should consider the active role each state already plays in safeguarding its waterways.

The Obama-era regulation, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and put it in the hands of federal agencies. This included almost any body of water, such as isolated streams, hundred-year floodplains, and roadside ditches.

Many of these states won a nationwide stay that blocked enforcement of the rule and proved crucial in providing time for a new administration to reconsider the rule.

Utah Attorney General Reyes signed the letter with West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.

Read a copy of the letter at

# # #

State of Utah to File Notice to Sue Environmental Protection Agency

SALT LAKE CITY Feb. 12, 2016 – As the investigation into the Gold King Mine spill continues, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes will file notice of claim against the federal government for its role in the disaster. Recently, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) discovered that water sample results taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2015 after the spill showed elevated levels of metals. The results had not previously been shared with the State of Utah.

“From the beginning we have evaluated Utah’s legal options to ensure the EPA lives up to its promise to be fully accountable and transparent – and to make our citizens and environment whole,” said Utah Attorney General Reyes.  “After the spill, we waited to take legal action because in good faith we hoped that cooperation with the EPA could bring more rapid reimbursement and remediation.  Perhaps there is a still a chance for that to happen, but Utah needs to be in a position to file a lawsuit if the federal government is not more responsive and transparent.  The discovery that the EPA did not share relevant information is a cause for serious concern and could lead to additional claims after we have fully investigated that omission.”

The action will put all parties on notice that Utah intends to sue the federal government under RCRA and the Clean Water Act and begins the litigation process.

“It’s critical that we ensure that the EPA, and any other potentially liable entities, are held legally responsible not just for short term effects but for damage that may not be known or understood for years to come,” said AG Reyes.

Upon notice of the disaster, a team of lawyers from the Office of the Utah Attorney General lent support to the vitally important actions of its clients including the Utah Departments of Environmental Quality and Public Safety – and their Divisions of Water Quality and Emergency Management. These agencies began immediate monitoring of impacts to Utah’s waters and evaluating short and long-term health, environmental and recreational impacts to Utah citizens and tribal nations along the San Juan River.


U.S. Supreme Court Halts EPA’s Unlawful Power Plan


SALT LAKE CITY Feb. 10, 2016 — The State of Utah is pleased that the United States Supreme Court has blocked enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (the EPA) “111(d)” regulation, a landmark carbon rule for power plants. The Supreme Court’s order prohibits the EPA from implementing the rule until the states’ legal challenge is resolved by the courts.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes welcomed the Supreme Court’s action.

“Such a dramatic expansion of the EPA’s authority to regulate our economy without restraint warrants clear direction and clear legal authorization from Congress, which has not yet been granted,” said Herbert.

“This decision recognizes the dangerous impact the rule will have on our state,” said Reyes. “We all want better air quality and a healthy environment for our families and future generations, but not by bypassing Congress, violating the Clean Air Act, and ignoring meaningful input by the States.”

Led by the Attorney General’s Office, Utah joined the challenge of the  EPA’s rule, also known as the Clean Power Plan, and requested that courts overturn this unprecedented federal regulatory expansion. Utah joined West Virginia and twenty-two other states in challenging the EPA’s approach to regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that would unlawfully hinder Utah’s ability to make fundamental decisions central to the quality of life and economy growth.