Federal judge blocks Obama’s water rule

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal judge blocks Obama’s water rule.

A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday blocked a new Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waterways. Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court for the District of North Dakota found that the 13 states suing to block the rule met the conditions necessary for a preliminary injunction, including that they would likely be harmed if courts didn’t act and that they are likely to succeed when their underlying lawsuit against the rule is decided.

The decision is a major roadblock for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, who were planning Friday to begin enforcing the Waters of the United States rule, expanding federal jurisdiction over small waterways like streams and wetlands. “Once the rule takes effect, the states will lose their sovereignty over intrastate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act,” Erickson wrote. “While the exact amount of land that would be subject to the increase is hotly disputed, the agencies admit to an increase in control over those traditional state-regulated waters of between 2.84 to 4.65 percent. Delaying implementation to allow a full and final resolution on the merits is in the best interests of the public.” The states claim the rule infringes on their sovereignty and will be costly and confusing to landowners, farmers, ranchers and local governments who will have to obtain federal permits or undergo federal review for uses affecting tributaries to major rivers and wetlands, ponds, lakes and ditches connected to those tributaries. It wasn’t immediately clear if the injunction applied to states other than the 13 led by North Dakota.” The other states involved in the lawsuit are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming. The water rule quickly became one of the most controversial regulations from Obama’s EPA, opposed by most states and many business, agriculture and development interests, among others.

During a hearing on the injunction motion last week, North Dakota officials warned that the rule could bring oil projects to a standstill, cut into oil production and state tax revenues, make water projects more costly and cause confusion and uncertainty for farmers. The cases have been consolidated into one lawsuit at the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, but Erickson argued that he could still issue his injunction. Erickson cited Wyoming in his ruling, saying the state would have to bear the cost of things such as issuing permits and has no way of avoiding the increased expenses under the regulation.

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