Virginia officials scored a key victory Thursday in their battle with the Environmental Protection Agency over what EPA critics describe as a land takeover.
U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria ruled late Thursday that the EPA exceeded its authority by attempting to regulate stormwater runoff into a Fairfax County creek as a pollutant. O'Grady sided with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which challenged EPA's stormwater restrictions
"Stormwater runoff is not a pollutant, so EPA is not authorized to regulate it," O'Grady said.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says the ruling could ultimately save Virginia taxpayers more than $300 million.
An EPA spokesman could not be reached for comment after business hours.
The EPA, citing an abundance of stormwater runoff, had proposed a plan that Virginia officials said could cost homeowners and businesses their private property.
The EPA contended that water itself can be regulated as a pollutant if there's too much of it. The agency says heavy runoff is having a negative impact on Accotink Creek and that it has the regulatory authority to remedy the situation.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, argued what the EPA has proposed is "illegal," and he's not alone in the fight. He was joined in the lawsuit against the federal agency by the Democratic-controlled Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
In legal filings, the EPA says that its plan is "in harmony with the broader purposes" of the Clean Water Act, including "reducing the water quality impacts of stormwater."
"There is no possibility of homes being removed in this process," Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network, said. He called the claim by Cuccinelli an "overstatement."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.