Federal court reinstates clean water rule delayed by Trump administration
The EPA had begun rewriting the Waters of the United States rule.
A federal judge in South Carolina has issued an injunction to block the Trump administration's move to delay a clean water rule intended to prevent pollution from being released into bodies of water like creeks, lakes and streams.
The change to the Waters of the United States rule was a hallmark of former Administrator Scott Pruitt's time at EPA, who often said that under the rule a dry creek bed would be regulated as a Water of the United States. Groups like the American Farm Bureau opposed the rule, saying that the Obama administration did not listen to their concerns that it put too many regulations on their business.
EPA was working to change definitions in the rule that would have drastically rolled back protections.
Similar to other rulings that have gone against rules delayed or rolled back under the Trump administration, South Carolina District Judge David Norton ruled that the government did not follow proper procedure in delaying the rule and suspended the EPA's decision, specifically by not considering public comment in its decision.
"The agencies refused to engage in a substantive reevaluation of the definition of the "waters of the United States" even though the legal effect of the Suspension Rule is that the definition of "waters of the United States" ceases to be the definition under the WOTUS rule," he wrote in the decision.
Norton ruled in favor of environmental groups and states that challenged the delay and granted an injunction to reinstate the rule.
Thursday's ruling will not impact 24 states where other legal challenges are pending, but a senior attorney at the group that filed the initial challenge said the ruling is a victory for states where the rule can now go into effect.
the Southern Environmental Law Center that filed the case said the decision to uphold the rule is a victory for states where it will take effect.
"This is a victory for families and communities across America who depend on clean water, and a rebuke to the polluting industries trying to gut this nation’s bedrock health and environmental safeguards," said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Water is a way of life in the South, where clean water is the lifeblood of our economy. We are thrilled the court rejected this administration’s blatant attempts to undermine safeguards that are critical to our nation’s welfare without being accountable to the American people."
An EPA spokesperson said the agency and Army Corps of Engineers will review the ruling to determine the next step.