A Texas federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule from taking effect in his state and in Idaho. 

In a ruling Sunday, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown declined to issue a nationwide injunction sought by 18 associations but said the rule, due to go into effect Monday, raises constitutional questions that warrant enjoining its implementation in the two states.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ “effort to read navigability out of the (Clean Water Act)’s text to permit categorical encroachment on states’ rights raises constitutional questions this court should — if any other reasonable interpretation of the Act exists — avoid,” Brown said in his opinion.

The judge also said the Biden rule “is unlikely to withstand judicial review” because its version of the “significant nexus” test is “materially different from the standard” articulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court’s 2006 Rapanos decision.

“The agencies’ construction of the significant-nexus test ebbs beyond the already uncertain boundaries Justice Kennedy established for it,” Brown said. “Specifically, by extending the significant-nexus test to ‘interstate waters,’ and not just to those ‘waters . . . understood as ‘navigable,’ the rule disregards the Act’s ‘central requirement’ — ‘the word ‘navigable.’ ”

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“The agencies’ interpretation of the act to include all interstate waters irrespective of any limiting principle raises serious federalism questions,” he also said.

Ruling on another requirement for an injunction, Brown said Texas and Idaho “have already shown irreparable harm because they will expend unrecoverable resources – monetary and otherwise – complying with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation applauded the ruling. “AFBF is pleased the district court ordered EPA and the U.S. Army Corps to halt implementation of the troubled 2023 WOTUS rule in Texas and Idaho,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “The judge recognized the new rule likely oversteps EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, which creates uncertainty for the farmers and ranchers who must navigate the complicated regulations.”

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