California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration today over a federal Environmental Protection Agency ruling that vast salt ponds in the South Bay are not “waters of the United States.”
Last March, the Trump administration ruled that 1,365 acres of salt ponds owned by Cargill are not subject to some restrictions of the federal Clean Water Act. That determination breathed new life into one of the Bay Area's largest housing proposals in five decades.
But EPA's decision angered environmental groups and government officials like Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She claimed that Cargill executives worked behind the scenes with the Trump administration to push the decision in violation of environmental laws. “I am not willing to let this happen,” she said at the time.
“It’s a sad day when the country's ‘environmental protection agency’ looks at the San Francisco Bay and doesn’t see a body of water that it should protect,” Becerra said in a statement. “We should restore the Bay, not build on top of it. This unlawful proposal is simply an attempt by the EPA to overlook its obligation to protect our nation’s waters in order to fast track development. President Trump, California’s precious San Francisco Bay is not for sale.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement in support of Becerra's lawsuit, saying that the administration's failure to protect the salt ponds puts the San Francisco Bay ecosystem at risk. She said that EPA's regional office determined in 2016 that the area along Redwood City is subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act.
"With little explanation, the Trump administration reversed that decision, opening the fragile salt ponds up to development," she said. "The health of the San Francisco Bay will largely be determined by the future of these surrounding salt ponds. We can’t let the administration shirk its responsibility to safeguard this national treasure.”