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Northwest Environmental Advocates sues EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, for not protecting the species from toxic pollutants.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO  - John Garrison of Sun River holds a 25-inch bull trout he caught on Lake Billy Chinook in 2015. A lawsuit filed Friday charges federal agencies with neglecting to protect the species in Oregon from toxic pollutants. 
Arguing that Oregon bull trout aren't being adequately protected from toxic pollutants, Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday, July 27, against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"It's the federal government's job to make sure that Oregon doesn't push threatened and endangered species over the brink into extinction, a job they failed to do," said Nina Bell, the nonprofit advocacy group's executive director, in a media release. 

Bull trout were identified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1999. The lawsuit challenges a 2012 formal opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service that found Oregon's water quality standards for certain toxics were adequate to protect bull trout under the Endangered Species Act.

The case focuses on Oregon's water quality standards for arsenic, selenium, and zinc submitted to the EPA for approval by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which triggered a Fish and Wildlife Service review of the impacts on the bull trout. The federal agency concluded that the Oregon standards for toxics did not jeopardize the continued existence of the bull trout, Bell says. But three years later, she contends, the same agency evaluated identical or more stringent criteria adopted by Idaho for the same toxic pollutants and came to the opposite conclusion, ruling that eight different toxics standards did pose a hazard to bull trout. 

"This iconic species is especially vulnerable to toxic pollution, and federal law requires that agencies do all they can to ensure its survival," said Jamie Saul, clinical professor and staff attorney at Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School, which is representing Northwest Environmental Advocates.

Bell's group has filed a string of lawsuits over many years to strengthen Oregon's water quality standards.

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@SteveLaw/Trib

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