A federal judge has dismissed a challenge from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association to the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, ruling OCA did not have legal standing to seek an injunction.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman issued his decision from the bench Thursday, so there is no written opinion, but the effect of his ruling is that the NWPR will remain in effect in Oregon.
OCA’s challenge went after the new rule on the grounds that its interpretation of “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act includes “an extensive catalog of ‘tributaries’ that are not navigable and which are not even ‘waters’ for most of every year, as well as non-navigable isolated lakes and ponds, and non-abutting wetlands.”
The Supreme Court, the group said, “has held that while the Clean Water Act regulates some waters that are not navigable-in-fact, it does not regulate all ‘waters’ and that ‘navigable’ must have some limiting meaning."
The dismissal without prejudice means that the group can refile its complaint at a later date, Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Anthony Francois said.
In a statement, Francois said Mosman "concluded that there was not enough evidence in the record that ranchers in Oregon are adversely affected by the Navigable Waters Protection Rule" but will allow the case "to be refiled with additional detail, after observing that the evidence probably could be supplied in the future. We will be consulting with our client about the next steps." There is no deadline for refiling.
In a statement, an EPA spokesperson said the agency “appreciates the court’s thoughtful decision.”
“EPA and the Army developed the rule to protect the navigable waters and their core tributary systems for the entire country while respecting our statutory authority,” the spokesperson said. “EPA and the Army are confident that the new rule provides much-needed regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, and businesses — ending confusion that has existed for decades — while protecting the nation’s navigable waters and striking an appropriate balance between federal and state authority over aquatic resources.”
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The rule is in effect in 49 states. A federal judge in Colorado issued a decision last month staying implementation of the rule there. In California, a coalition of states failed to persuade a judge to issue an injunction to stop implementation of the rule.
Other lawsuits have been filed in Washington, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Mexico.
This article was updated Aug. 10 to include a statement from OCA attorney Anthony Francois.
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