Virginia takes EPA to court claiming water regulation plan is illegal land takeover

A heated legal battle between Virginia officials and the Environmental Protection Agency over what EPA critics describe as a land takeover gets its day in federal court Friday.

The EPA, citing an abundance of stormwater runoff, has proposed a plan that Virginia officials say would cost them nearly half a billion dollars -- and could cost homeowners and businesses their private property.

The EPA contends 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.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, says what the EPA has proposed is "illegal," and he's not alone in the fight. He's been joined in a lawsuit against the federal agency by the Democratic-controlled Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Cuccinelli argues that what the EPA has planned would require state and county officials to "take people's houses, evict them, knock the houses down and plant grass."

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."

Ultimately, Judge Liam O'Grady will make the determination as to whether Cuccinelli and the Fairfax supervisors get the injunction they're hoping will put an end to the EPA's plans.