The Trump administration is asking a federal judge to hold off on deciding the legality of the Obama-era “waters of the U.S.” rule. The administration believes the judge’s decision could interfere with the administrative process of repealing and replacing the rule. In a brief filed late Monday in federal court in North Dakota, where the rule is being challenged by 13 states, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, represented by the Justice Department, argued that it would be premature for the court to issue a decision until the administrative process has played out. The agencies said they “would face more uncertainty” if the court “were to rule in the midst of the ongoing rulemaking process.” The agencies also said they were not taking any position on the merits of the “substantive claims” made by the states and their supporters – including numerous farm groups. They did, however, say that if the judge decides to rule on the claims, he should deny them. In a separate brief, environmental groups defended the 2015 WOTUS rule, saying it fully complied with both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Clean Water Act.

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