(This article has been updated to include information about a court appeal.)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — A U.S. District Court has ruled that the Trump administration improperly suspended the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
The Environmental Protection Agency a year ago said it would repeal and replace the Obama-era regulation, and it delayed the rule’s effective date until 2020.
The rule, which took effect in August 2015, was enjoined in 24 states that brought lawsuits against it.
A U.S. District Court in Georgia in June issued a preliminary injunction against implementation of the regulation in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and a District Court in North Dakota in August 2015 did the same for Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
But U.S. District Judge David Norton in South Carolina on Aug. 16 agreed with environmental groups that EPA did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act when suspending the rule, making the regulation effective in the 26 states where it hadn’t been blocked, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On Aug. 20, a broad coalition of industry groups asked the court to delay implementation of its Aug. 16 order while the groups appeal the court’s decision.
Nationwide WOTUS stay still in works
Earlier this year, the business and agricultural coalition asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for a nationwide stay of the WOTUS rule, arguing that the EPA’s repeal-and-replace process likely will be subjected to legal challenges and that “a nationwide preliminary injunction is imperative.”
The WOTUS rule expanded EPA’s authority over various waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters.
The agency’s jurisdiction had included only “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters.
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