Thursday, August 27, 2015

Waters of U.S. rule blocked by N.D. federal judge; ruling applies in only 13 states

UPDATE: "A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule from going into effect on Friday, a sizable victory for agricultural interests who brought lawsuits to halt the rule," Spencer Chase reports for Agri-Pulse. This one was brought by several states. "EPA said after the ruling that it would not implement the new rules in those 13 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming," The Associated Press reports, heading an overall look at the issue. The American Farm Bureau Federation argues that the ruling applies nationwide.

The Obama administration's much maligned Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rules under the Clean Water Act could become law on Friday, "barring an injunction from one of the lawsuits currently seeking to halt the rule," reports Agri-Pulse. "The lawsuits include challenges from more than two dozen states and 12 organizations in five separate cases filed across the country." One of the main concerns is that rules will expand Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction over water rights, claims EPA denies.

"Sources close to one of the lawsuits told Agri-Pulse that EPA has requested a consolidation of all the lawsuits filed in District Courts into one case to be heard by the District Court in Washington, D.C., something opposed by both states and industry groups," reports Agri-Pulse. "At the appellate level, the cases have all been consolidated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee."

Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, and Scott Yeager, the environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, some of the most vocal critics of the rules, "agreed that the EPA probably won’t immediately resort to the $37,500 fine per discharge per day authorized in the rule but rather will gradually implement the regulations," reports Agri-Pulse.

Yeager told Agri-Pulse, “This rule is just going to be coming into effect, so I don’t think you’re going to see EPA marching out there on day one and taking enforcement actions against farmers and ranchers. What’s more likely is implementation is going to ease in. I mean, they haven’t even issued guidance yet and they have yet to publish that Q & A article that kind of tells you how it’s going to work, so I think it’s a bit premature for people to change everything they’re doing.”

Parrish "said the rule will be more of 'a creep' than a sudden onslaught of new regulations—he expects the EPA to wait to fully implement the rule until the subject is off Congress’ radar," reports Agri-Pulse. "But given the likelihood that a court case could drag on for several years, Parrish said AFBF is still hoping for congressional action defanging the rule in the short term, be it through an appropriations rider or a clean repeal bill. He told Agri-Pulse, “(EPA) not only screwed up the process, but they proposed a rule that’s unworkable, and we want Congress to step in.” Agri-Pulse is subscription-only but offers a four-week free trial.

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