Judge: Injunctions blocks WOTUS rule in only 13 states, including North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. -- A federal judge Friday ruled that his order last week blocking a new federal clean-water rule from taking effect doesn't apply nationwide but only to North Dakota and the dozen other states involved in the lawsuit, citing "compe...
BISMARCK, N.D. - A federal judge Friday ruled that his order last week blocking a new federal clean-water rule from taking effect doesn’t apply nationwide but only to North Dakota and the dozen other states involved in the lawsuit, citing “competing sovereign interests and competing judicial rulings.”
Judge Ralph Erickson issued the order in U.S. District Court in Fargo, limiting the scope of the preliminary injunction he granted Aug. 27 that prevented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing their “Waters of the United States” rule in the 13 states.
There were “compelling reasons” in favor of both extending and limiting the injunction, Erickson wrote.
“On the one hand, there is a desirability for uniformity regarding a national rule with national application. On the other hand, there is the idea of respecting the decisions of other courts and other sovereign states,” he wrote.
Four other courts have denied preliminary injunctions, two because they found they lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, he noted. The other two courts deferred their decision until a judicial panel decides whether to consolidate all of the legal challenges to the Obama administration rule.
After Erickson granted the injunction last week, the EPA issued a statement saying the rule would still go into effect Aug. 28 in the other 37 states not involved in the lawsuit. The 13 states led by North Dakota asked that the injunction be applied nationwide.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Erickson’s order Friday means “no harm, no foul” for North Dakota and its co-plaintiffs, but the other 37 states will unfortunately have to abide by the new clean water rule.
“In the meantime we will vigorously press our case, and I am confident that this will be thrown out for the unconstitutional regulation that it is,” he said, adding, “I fully understand (Erickson’s) reasoning and respecting the actions of the other courts.”
North Dakota is joined in the lawsuit by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and two New Mexico state agencies.
In a statement, the EPA said the federal agency “will comply with the court’s order, and the agencies’ prior regulations will be in effect in those 13 states. The Clean Water Rule was developed by the agencies to respond to an urgent need to improve and simplify the process for identifying waters that are and are not protected under the Clean Water Act and is based on the latest science and the law.”