(Adds comment from EPA)
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Two environmental groups have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for what the groups said was failing to comply with a court order requiring the agency to strengthen regulations preventing pollution from stormwater runoff.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) said in a statement that they filed the suit on Thursday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The groups said EPA has not obeyed a 2003 ruling from the 9th circuit in EDC v. EPA that required the agency to redo portions of its 1999 stormwater regulations dealing with urban runoff because they were not in line with the Clean Water Act.
The order also directed the agency to consider regulating runoff from unpaved forest roads.
NRDC and EDC said they have asked the court to impose a deadline for the EPA to act in these matters.
In response to the lawsuit, EPA said it was working to strengthen its existing stormwater pollution program by requiring more environmental protections when renewing storm sewer permits and working with states and municipalities to reduce water pollution.
"The agency's goal is to build a broad nationwide constituency for better stormwater pollution control by educating communities and giving them an opportunity to develop strong programs before creating additional federal regulatory requirements," EPA said in a statement.
Rain water that runs off roads and other hard surfaces into sewer systems can contaminate water supplies, cause beach closings and harm aquatic life.
The environmental groups said EPA pledged it would revamp its urban stormwater rules in 2009, but backed off from those plans.
The agency has also said it would weigh whether to issue standards for forest road runoff, but no timeline has been set for a decision.
"We hope this suit spurs EPA to get back into the business of modernizing its whole stormwater program, which badly needs updating and could greatly benefit from new green technologies," said NRDC senior attorney Larry Levine in a statement. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Andrew Hay and Meredith Mazzilli)