US court places hold on federal water protection rule

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal Judge Blocks New Obama Administration Water Rule.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday blocked a new Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some smaller waterways just hours before it was set to go into effect. Federal District Court Judge Ralph Erickson ordered a preliminary injunction on Thursday that temporarily delays a new federal rule redefining “waters of the United States.” The Environmental Protection Agency said the redefinition is aimed at safeguarding drinking water. The judge gave two reasons for his decision: “(1)it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with requirements when promulgating the Rule.” North Dakota is one of the 13 states and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he was pleased with the ruling. “This is a victory in the first skirmish, but it is only the first,” said Stenehjem. “There is much more to do to prevent this widely unpopular rule from ever taking effect.” The Attorney General for another state in the lawsuit, Missouri’s Chris Koster commented “In issuing the preliminary injunction, the federal court sent an unmistakable message to the EPA: You have gone too far. Missouri’s land and water resources should be regulated by officials accountable to the people of the state, not by arbitrary standards dictated from Washington DC.” The ruling was just released at the very end of the day on Thursday, but reaction from farm organizations opposed to the rule is expected to be forthcoming any time now.

However, on issues pertaining to intrastate water resource conservation and management, ultimate regulatory authority belongs with the state of Nevada.” Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA in May issued the rule, which is estimated to put about 3% more waterways throughout the U.S. under new federal jurisdiction. The EPA and the Army Corps argued that the new definition would protect streams and wetlands, which the agencies say form the foundation of the nation’s water resources, from pollution and degradation. But at least the status quo is maintained in the meantime,” he said. “This is big news for North Dakota and really for the 30 states that have sued one way or another.” Similar requests for preliminary injunctions were denied on jurisdictional grounds by federal judges in West Virginia on Wednesday and in Georgia on Thursday. Today the court agreed with Colorado and its fellow states that EPA likely overstepped its authority in trying to take control over state waters and, in doing so, poses a threat to state sovereignty.

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. The new rules would have forced landowners to get a permit if they took steps that would pollute or destroy the regulated waters connected to larger bodies of water downstream.

He said the definition of tributary, for example, could include many waters that are unlikely to have a significant connection to larger waters downstream. Companies apply for permits under the Clean Water Act for a host of industrial activities, such as building roads, bridges and discharging of waste material like sewage.

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