Judge Freezes Clean Water Rule in 24 States

Opponents call the federal regulation a burden on farmers and ranchers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2023 3:35 PM CDT
Judge Freezes Clean Water Rule in 24 States
A road bisects a wetland on June 20, 2019, near Kulm, North Dakota.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a federal rule in 24 states that is intended to protect thousands of small streams, wetlands, and other waterways throughout the nation. US District Judge Daniel L. Hovland in Bismarck, North Dakota, halted the regulations from the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the 24 states, most of which are led by Republicans. The regulations were finalized in December 2022, repealing a rule implemented during President Trump's administration but thrown out by federal courts, the AP reports.

Opponents of the regulations, which define the "waters of the United States" protected by the Clean Water Act, have called the rules an example of federal overreach and argued they would unfairly burden farmers and ranchers. The preliminary injunction affects Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. An injunction was previously issued that halted the rules in Texas and Idaho. In his order, Hovland wrote that the federal regulation raises a list of "statutory and constitutional concerns and would cause great harm to the states."

The president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said he hopes for clarity from the Supreme Court. "Once again, the courts have affirmed that the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule is overreaching and harmful to America’s beef farmers and ranchers," Todd Wilkinson said. The EPA said in a statement that the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers were reviewing the decision but still believe the regulations were "the best" interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The agency says its rules would still stand in states not included in the injunction. President Biden days ago vetoed a congressional resolution that would have overturned the rule. John Rumpler, clean water program director at Environment America, a national network of state environmental organizations, said that the EPA rule blocked by the judge is supported by science and the law and that the judge was misreading the purpose of the Clean Water Act.

(More Clean Water Act stories.)

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