The Trump administration March 30 told Hawaii to take a deeper look at plastic pollution in its waters, a decision that comes shortly after environmental groups sued the federal government alleging it had not protected coastal waters around the state.
The Environmental Protection Agency wrote to Hawaii government officials to say it was withdrawing its previous approval of their plans under the Clean Water Act and told officials there to basically take a second look at the impact of plastics in its waters.
A coalition of environmental groups, including The Center for Biological Diversity, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation, had sued President Donald Trump's administration Feb. 5, saying that EPA did not properly consider "widespread plastic pollution in Hawaii's coastal waters" in approving Hawaii's plans under the Clean Water Act.
The March 30 letter from EPA Regional Administrator John Busterud to the director of Hawaii's Department of Health acknowledged that the federal government was reversing its previous approval and said the state needed to submit better information around the environmental impact of plastics.
"Specifically, the state's submission does not demonstrate that it has satisfied its statutory and regulatory obligation to assemble and evaluate all existing and readily available data and information related to plastics," Busterud wrote.
He said that was the only part of its 2018 approval of state Clean Water Act plans it was withdrawing.
Environmental groups, who released the EPA letter, said studies showed that 17 bodies of water around the state are harmed by plastics pollution. They suggested the lawsuit is part of wider efforts to force action under water quality laws.
"This is a critical first step to address marine plastic pollution through our nation's water quality protection laws and to help prevent future degradation of beaches, coral and marine life," said Angela Howe, legal director for Surfrider.