Judge tosses lawsuit over fish consumption rates

SEATTLE — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit related to how much fish people eat in Washington — and thus, how much toxic pollution they consume.

Conservation and commercial fishing groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last fall, saying the agency has for too long let state officials underestimate fish consumption, resulting in weak anti-pollution standards.

The groups, including Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, wanted to force the EPA to intervene and possibly revise the state’s “fish-consumption rate.” They said the agency’s own letters to state officials found that Washington’s rate was inadequate, and that should have triggered action by the EPA.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the letters did not amount to a legal determination that Washington’s rate was inadequate, and thus he could not force the EPA to intervene.

Washington’s estimate is that average fish consumption amounts to just 8 ounces — roughly one fillet — per person, per month. The state Ecology Department has worked for years on updating the estimate and is expected to announce a draft of a new rule by the end of this month.

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