Judge sides with Georgia challenge targeting Obama-era water rule

Attorney General Chris Carr. AJC photo

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Attorney General Chris Carr. AJC photo

A federal judge sided with Georgia and nine others states in a ruling this week that found President Barack Obama’s signature water policy doesn’t pass legal muster.

The opinion released Wednesday concluded that the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States regulation violated the Clean Water Act as well as federal law that outlines how agencies can craft new policies.

It was a victory for Attorney General Chris Carr, who helped organize the 10-state coalition that challenged the 2015 rule. Carr called it a “clear example of federal overreach that infringed on the states’ traditional role” as regulators of land and water resources within their borders.

Obama’s 2015 rule maintains that rivers used for drinking, recreation and fishing can only be clean if pollution from creeks and other bodies of water feeding into them — including ditches, wetlands and “ephemeral” streams that are created by rainfalls — is regulated.

That rule cited authority from the Clean Water Act, which states it’s illegal to pollute waterways without a permit. But U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood’s ruling found that the rule “failed” to comply with federal law.

“Congress has delegated the important role of protecting the nation’s waters to the Agencies, but in fulfilling that role, the Agencies must comply with the law,” she wrote.

The rule is already blocked in the states that filed the challenge, so there’s no change in Georgia as to how it will be applied.

Georgia has helped lead opposition to the 2015 rule, arguing that it is overly strict and costly and hurt state sovereignty. President Donald Trump's administration last year proposed rules that would roll back the restrictions that were cheered by top state Republican officials.

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