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Virginia says EPA stormwater runoff plan will cost homeowners their property

A legal battle between the state of Virginia and the Environmental Protection Agency over a proposed stormwater runoff plan that the state says will cost it $500 million dollars and could mean the loss of private property for homeowners and businesses will finally be heard in court Friday.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Democratic-led Fairfax County Board of Supervisors teamed up in July to file a lawsuit against the EPA, arguing the agency exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act by requiring that the county control the flow of water itself in order to manage sediment discharges and would divert public funds away from more effective projects to restore Accotink Creek and other waterways.

However, the EPA argues that water itself can be regulated as a pollutant if there is an overabundance of it. the agency also argues that water runoff is negatively impacting Accotink Creek, which it has the legal authority to protect.

The EPA’s legal filings say the plan lines up with the broader purposes of the Clean Water Act, which includes “reducing the water quality impacts of stormwater.”

“There is no possibility of homes being removed in this process,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network, adding that Cuccinelli’s claim was an “overstatement.”

However, Cuccinelli and Fairfax County say the EPA’s plan is “illegal,” and also argue that the agency’s plan requires state and local officials to “take people’s houses, evict them, knock the houses down and plant grass.”

“EPA is literally treating water itself — the very substance the Clean Water Act was created to protect — as a pollutant,” according to the lawsuit.

The EPA’s proposed water flow reductions would require the Virginia Department of Transportation to obtain significant amounts of private property for new stormwater facilities and require state and county officials to regulate stormwater runoff from private property beyond their control, reports the Washington Post.

“It’s about putting aside politics and doing the right thing for Fairfax County,” said Republican Supervisor Pat S. Herrity. “Any kind of expansion in the Accotink watershed would have become prohibitively expensive because of what you would have to do with storm-water management.”

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