Judge refuses to block Clean Water Act rule nationwide

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2015 - A federal judge in North Dakota declined to block implementation of the Obama administration's Clean Water Act rule nationwide, leaving it in force in all but 13 states.

U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson last week granted a request by the 13 states to stop the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers from enforcing the rule. But on Friday he turned down their request to extend the ruling nationwide, citing “competing sovereign interests and competing judicial rulings.” 

The rule, which took effect Aug. 28, re-defines the ditches, wetlands and streams fall under jurisdiction of the anti-pollution law as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

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A second judge, in the Southern District of Georgia, declined last week to block the rule's implementation in a separate case brought by another group of 11 states. A third judge in West Virginia also declined to block the rule in a case filed by a coal company.

Erickson's 4-page ruling means the administration is only blocked from enforcing the rule in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.

“On the one hand, there is a desirability for uniformity regarding a national rule with national application,” Erickson wrote. “On the other hand, there is the idea of respecting the decisions of other courts and other sovereign states.”

The National Milk Producers Federation and the National Pork Producers Council have separately called on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to suspend implementation of the WOTUS rule nationwide. 

But the EPA made clear in a statement Friday that it was moving ahead with enforcement in the other 37 states.  “EPA and the Department of the Army will comply with the court's order, and the agencies' prior regulations will be in effect in those 13 states,” the statement said. 

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