SALEM, Ohio — The ink barely dried on new federal rules expanding the Clean Water Act before dozens of states, agricultural and business industry groups filed lawsuits in courts around the country, claiming the changes hand the government an unreasonable amount of authority over land use.
The Clean Water Act already gave Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over “navigable” waters. The new rule broadens that to include other water bodies, as well as upstream waters, 100-year flood plains and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also would encompass lands adjacent to such waters. The new rule was published June 29, and will go into effect Aug. 28.
The EPA has said the changes, which were rewritten in recent months, should have little impact on agricultural activities and other uses. Dozens of states and industry groups remain unconvinced. Four lawsuits representing 27 states were filed in U.S. District courts in Ohio, North Dakota, Texas and Georgia, starting June 29.
Ohio and Michigan filed suit in Ohio. Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas filed in Texas. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming filed in North Dakota. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed suit in Georgia.
Industry reps, too
On July 2, a group of agricultural and business industry organizations announced they filed a similar lawsuit against the EPA and the Army Corps in U.S. District Court in Texas.
Included are: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute, American Road and Transportation Builders, Leading Builders of America, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Mining Association, National Pork Producers Council and Public Lands Council. Legal action from other groups could also be forthcoming.
What they want
The lawsuits call the new rule “unconstitutional” and are asking the courts to prohibit the agencies from implementing it. If no decision is made, the rule goes into effect Aug. 28. Legislation to send the regulation back to EPA is pending in the U.S. Senate but has already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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