Court Stays Trump Water Rule Lawsuit

Biden Administration Has Until May 2021 to Review Trump Water Rule

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Biden administration received a stay on an ongoing lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule. (DTN photo by Mary Kennedy)

OMAHA (DTN) -- A federal court agreed to delay an ongoing lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule to allow the Biden administration until May to conduct a review of the rule.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico also denied an injunction request made by the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association against parts of the Trump rule that took effect in June 2020.

The court cited President Joe Biden's executive order last month regarding public health, the environment and climate change that requires federal agencies to review rules drafted in the last four years, including the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. With that, the court granted a stay to delay any further proceedings until at least May 1. That would give the Biden administration time to "determine whether the rule should be maintained, modified, or otherwise reconsidered," the court stated.

While the Biden administration may push for a more stringent water rule, the federal court case in question stemmed from arguments the Trump administration's rule is too stringent.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association alleged in its request for an injunction filed in May 2020 that farmers and ranchers could face potentially "crippling liability" under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

The cattle producers argued the rule from EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would force ranchers to "spend months to years, and tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, to obtain Army permits to farm and otherwise use their own land."

The group asked the court to stop EPA and the Corps of Engineers from enforcing the rule when it comes to intermittent tributaries and "non-navigable" wetlands if they don't abut navigable waters.

Separately, the U.S. District Court for South Carolina in Charleston will hear arguments from EPA and environmental groups on a pair of motions for summary judgment in one ongoing lawsuit challenging the rule.

The court postponed a Feb. 4 hearing on a motion to continue the case.

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League asked the court to vacate the rule, alleging the Trump administration stripped federal protections from millions of stream miles, and tens of millions of wetland acres across the country.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley