‘This is yet another example of far left, extreme environmentalists abusing our court system…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) A federal judge issued a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration on Thursday, blocking an attempt to delay a dramatically expanded Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule.
The rule, published in June 2015, expands the definition of “waterways and wetlands” that can be regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Previously, the terms applied mostly to coastal areas and large rivers, not small bodies of water throughout the entire country.
Farmers, ranchers, and developers have blasted the rule for forcing them to comply with costly, intrusive and politicized EPA edicts when they have streams, creeks, ponds or river tributaries flowing through their lands.
In some cases, private property owners have been subjected to the regulation if EPA has determined that their property is prone to minor flooding and puddling due to heavy rains.
Thursday’s decision came from a George H.W. Bush-appointed judge from South Carolina, and is a considerable setback for President Trump’s noted deregulation agenda.
Twenty-six states had sought relief from the so-called Clean Water Rule, but will now have to comply with it.
The judge found that in attempting to delay the former administration’s EPA rule, Trump’s EPA didn’t full observe the customary 30-day waiting period between a federal rule’s finalization and its effective date.
The technicality ended up violating a provision in the Administrative Procedures Act, or APA, which environmentalist-backed lawyers were able to exploit.
“As administrations change, so do regulatory priorities,” Judge David Norton explained in his ruling.
“But the requirements of the APA remain the same. The court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements,” he said.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, issued a livid response as Western states stand to be the most effected.
“The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule was an unconstitutional power grab by the Obama Administration that expanded federal control over state water law and private water rights,” Liz Cheney said in a statement on Thursday.
“Today’s federal court decision wrongly re-instates this misguided rule. This is yet another example of far left, extreme environmentalists abusing our court system,” she said.
Environmentalists and other proponents of the expanded rule cheered the decision.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented nine groups, including Charleston Waterkeeper and the Coastal Conservation League, in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration.
At the same time, 11 Democratic state attorneys general filed a similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Under the Trump administration’s proposal, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would have enforced water regulations under the older, limited definition of waterways, which included primarily large bodies of water like rivers.
The 2015 Clean Water Rule had already faced implementation problems due to a separate court order based questioning the potential for illegal overreach.
Last year, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch discovered Obama’s EPA had illicitly used social media to secretly promote the agency’s policies in violation of federal law.
“If allowed to stand, the Waters of the United States rule will threaten precious resources for hardworking ranchers and farmers in Wyoming, and will devastate our rural economy,” Liz Cheney said.