Dozen more states win an injunction against Obama’s Waters of the U.S. rule

By Tim Pearce

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to 11 more states against former President Barack Obama’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule Friday, Politico reported.

A federal judge in North Dakota exempted 13 other states from the rule in 2015 after the rule was finalized. Friday’s wave of injunctions, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of Georgia’s Southern District, symbolizes the growing opposition to the rule.

“The WOTUS rules are a blatant power grab by the EPA,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a June 2017 statement. “The federal government exceeded its statutory authority by attempting to regulate areas that Congress never intended to be under federal jurisdiction, and directly infringed on the states’ ability to regulate their own natural resources.”

Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky are all covered under Godbey’s ruling. An injunction to cover the entire nation has been filed in a federal court in Texas, Politico reported.

The rule gives expansive power to the federal government to regulate development and commerce that happens around bodies of water in the U.S. Although the law loosely refers “navigable waters,” it has been used to justify regulatory action around small, temporary bodies of water.

The Trump administration announced on June 27, 2017 that it would begin repealing the Obama-era rule, promising to “return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

Friday’s ruling has little immediate impact. The Trump administration delayed the WOTUS rule’s implementation until 2020, but environmental groups have filed lawsuits to put the rule back in effect, according to Politico.

Twenty states opposed to WOTUS are pushing the EPA to finish reviewing and rescinding the rule quickly.

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Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR