Ag Sues on WOTUS

Groups Want National Stay of 2015 Rule

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A number of states challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's delay of the 2015 waters of the United States rule this week, prompting agriculture interest groups to respond. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Three years after President Barack Obama's administration finalized the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in 2015, agriculture groups and states find themselves in a familiar position -- back in court to block the rule.

In the latest move, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agriculture groups petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston for a preliminary injunction on the rule on Wednesday. The groups told the court they fear the rule could become law if a handful of states have their way.

The agricultural groups made their counter-punch after attorneys general of 10 states and the District of Columbia sued the EPA on Tuesday demanding the agency put the 2015 rule into effect. The states allege the agency's work to suspend the 2015 WOTUS rule is unlawful. The states included are New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The agricultural groups make the case that the risk over various lawsuits and rules under the Clean Water Act rule causes harm to property owners, businesses and the individual interest of states. states their individual interests. Private land owners could face heavy civil and criminal penalties because of the continued jurisdictional issues over the rule. To avoid that, the courts need to grant an injunction to keep the 2015 rule from going into effect.

The Farm Bureau said, "Only an immediate, nationwide preliminary injunction is capable of restoring much-needed certainty and national uniformity to the agencies' implementation of the Clean Water Act."

The other agriculture groups involved make the case a national stay should be issued, because other courts have stated the 2015 rule is "likely unlawful" and shouldn't be allowed to take effect.

A recent Supreme Court ruling ended a national stay on the rule. The new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on a fix, but another cycle of lawsuits has ensued.

The EPA issued a final rule last week to delay the 2015 rule's implementation until 2020. The delay is designed to give EPA time to rewrite the rule to include a different definition of jurisdictional waters.

In the lawsuit challenging EPA's actions earlier this week, the states and the District of Columbia claim the EPA's two-year delay fails to take science into consideration. The states argue EPA's decision to revert back to old regulations don't provide states the same water-quality protections now granted under the 2015 rule.

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Todd Neeley