Victory for Colorado’s water and environment in U.S. District Court

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CONTACT: MaryAnn Nason, Communications Manager, Water Quality Control Division

Phone: 530-587-7296



June 20, 2020


DENVER: The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado granted the State of Colorado a stay on implementing changes to the federal Waters of the United States rule. The stay means that the federal government will need to continue to use the more environmentally protective rule for the time being in permitting flood control, stormwater erosion, transportation, and other important critical infrastructure projects.


“Our attorneys did a terrific job explaining how the rollback of important protections would create irreparable damage to Colorado in violation of the Clean Water Act.  We are committed to protecting our water and will continue to stand up for Colorado when the EPA fails to do so,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser.


“This ruling will protect both the Colorado economy and environment, including the vast expanse of state waters that would have been impacted by the rollback. It allows us to preserve the rigorous review and issuance of permits that allow critical projects to move forward if they protect waters and the environment in the state. We are hopeful that we will continue to prevail as the case proceeds,” said John Putnam, environmental programs director, CDPHE.


Colorado will be able to maintain the definition in place since the 1980s and to stop the new, unlawful rule from going into effect while the case is pending.


The Clean Water Act protects U.S. streams, wetlands, and rivers from pollution. Previously, under Supreme Court precedent, the rule included ephemeral streams—streams that run because of melting snow or precipitation—and wetlands that aren’t connected on the surface to larger bodies of water.


The new 2020 rule would have left all of Colorado’s ephemeral streams and many of its intermittent streams and wetlands without protection from development. The lawsuit stated that the new, narrower definition of the types of waterbodies protected under the Clean Water Act eliminates federal jurisdiction over a significant number of Colorado’s tributaries and wetlands that affect the quality of downstream waters, without providing a legal basis for the rule. This leaves Colorado’s snowmelt streams and wetlands vulnerable to pollution, which would negatively impact our state’s agriculture and outdoor recreation economy.