The Waters of the United States rule, implemented during the Obama administration, sought to expand the bodies of water under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include ditches, ponds and wetlands. A federal judge in Brunswick has determined that the rule violated states’ rights to regulate the land and water within their borders and issued a preliminary injunction. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Photo: Alex Brandon
Photo: Alex Brandon

Federal judge blocks EPA enforcement of 2015 clean water regulations

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of Georgia and 10 other states that sought to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries.

Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the U.S. District Court in Brunswick determined that a 2015 Waters of the United States rule infringed on states’ rights to regulate the land and water within their borders and issued the preliminary injunction last week.

Georgia led the 11-state coalition, which also included Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Shortly after his inauguration last year, President Donald Trump directed the EPA to reconsider the rule. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general sued the agency over the regulation, suspended the rule through 2020.

“This order shows that the court agrees we are likely to succeed on the merits of our claims,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement. “We are proud to have obtained this relief for Georgia citizens and will continue to fight against federal overreach in this case and others.”

Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center representing conservation groups, said it’s clear the Trump administration wants to shrink the number of waterways that are protected by federal law.

“The conservation groups we represent have an interest in seeing this clean water rule upheld,” he said. “So now we’re looking at all of our options on what to do next.”

Implemented during the Obama administration in 2015, the rule expanded the bodies of water under the authority of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to include ditches, ponds and wetlands.

With Wood’s recent ruling, courts now have exempted nearly half of the country from participating in the water regulations. In 2015, a North Dakota court issued an injunction exempting that state as well as Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.

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