Judge blocks rules intended to protect nation's waterways, including Alabama
A federal judge temporarily blocked a federal rule in 24 states that is intended to protect thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways including those in Alabama. U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Wednesday halted the regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the 24 states. The regulations were finalized in December 2022, repealing a rule implemented during President Donald Trump's administration but thrown out by federal courts. The regulations define which "waters of the United States" are protected by the Clean Water Act. Opponents have called the rules an example of federal overreach and argued they unfairly burden farmers and ranchers.
The preliminary injunction affects Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. An injunction was previously issued that halted the rules in Texas and Idaho.
"Once again, the courts have affirmed that the Biden administration's WOTUS rule is overreaching and harmful to America's beef farmers and ranchers," said Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Cattle producers in 26 states now have some additional certainty while this rule is being litigated and we are optimistic that the Supreme Court will provide nationwide clarity on the federal government's proper jurisdiction over water."
The EPA said in a statement that the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers were reviewing the decision but still believe the regulations were "the best" interpretation of the Clean Water Act. The agency says its rules would still stand in states not included in the injunction.
"The agencies remain committed to establishing and implementing a durable definition of 'waters of the United States' informed by diverse perspectives," the EPA said in the statement. "Our goal is to protect public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and industries that depend on clean water."
The injunction comes less than a week after President Joe Biden vetoed a congressional resolution that would have overturned the rule. The House and Senate had used the Congressional Review Act to block the regulations, with several Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the regulations.