U.S. judge blocks Biden clean water rule in 24 states

by mcardinal

A federal judge in North Dakota on Wednesday temporarily blocked implementation of a Biden administration rule establishing protections for seasonal streams and wetlands in 24 states, according to court documents.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted the states’ request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule, which was finalized in December.

In the order, Hovland said the states would “expend unrecoverable resources complying with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.”

The rule protects waterways that have a “significant nexus” to navigable U.S. waters – a standard that ranchers, developers and other industry groups have said is overly broad and creates burdensome permitting and regulatory hurdles.

West Virginia and 23 other Republican-led states sued the EPA and other federal agencies in February, alleging the rule violates the U.S. Constitution, sows confusion for landowners, and could lead to “irreparable harm” to the people it affects.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency is reviewing Wednesday’s ruling and called the Biden administration rule “the best interpretation” of the Clean Water Act.

Representatives for West Virginia and North Dakota issued statements praising the injunction, saying the rule would hurt industry and jobs without achieving environmental protection goals.

The case is part of a protracted battle over the scope of the Clean Water Act and what waterways the federal government has the authority to regulate.

Texas and industry groups led by the American Farm Bureau Federation separately won a limited injunction last month halting implementation of the rule in Texas and Idaho. Previous efforts by the Obama and Trump administrations to define the law’s scope also faced numerous legal challenges.

In Congress, Republicans led an effort to repeal the water rule last month, with limited support from across the aisle including four Senate Democrats and independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, vetoed that measure earlier this month.

The U.S. Supreme Court is also considering the scope of the law and heard oral arguments in a case challenging an earlier interpretation of its reach in October.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters