Judge Orders Trump to Reinstate Waters of the US Rule

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U.S. District Judge David Norton in SC agreed with environmental groups that the agencies failed to follow the public-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act in implementing a suspension rule this year that was meant to delay enforcement of the 2015 rule. "Water is a way of life in the South, where clean water is the lifeblood of our economy".

Just when farmers thought they had some time for the Trump Administration to save the day and fix the Obama-written Waters of the USA rule, a SC judge comes in and said the government didn't follow the proper administrative rules. The suspension rule was put in place to allow time for the new administration to repeal and re-propose a more workable definition. Today's decision follows a legal challenge filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of SC. According to the Washington Examiner, opponents said EPA avoided the customary 30-day waiting period between the rule's finalization and its effective date, circumventing the Administrative Procedures Act, or APA. At the time, the EPA and the Army Corps called the rule an "historic step" to protect clean water from pollution and degradation in streams and wetlands throughout the nation that would more "precisely define" the protected waters. "The definition of 'waters of the United States" is drastically different under these two regulations".

The court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the Chemical Disaster Rule, saying the agency did not have authority to delay the rule for 20 months. "As administrations change, so do regulatory priorities", said Judge David Norton, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, in his ruling. "The court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements".

"To avoid widespread uncertainty and potential enforcement against ordinary farming activities in these already-uncertain times, we call on the Administration to take immediate steps to limit the impact of this risky court decision", American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said.

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Because of court actions in other cases, the 2015 rule remains on hold in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, South Dakota, Missouri, Alaska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.

As a result, farmers in these states will be subject to overbroad, vague and illegal regulations on cropland and ranchland. "The South Carolina court has effectively brought WOTUS back from the dead in 26 states, creating a zombie version of the 2015 rule that threatens the rights of farmers and ranchers across the country". In a statement Yager said the ruling underscores the urgent need to finalize the repeal of the 2015 rule. A Kentucky Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the department is reviewing the opinion, and will continue to monitor the courts on this issue.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and a broad coalition of business organizations have notified the federal district court in SC they will appeal that court's ruling.

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