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Health, Science, Environment

Federal judge blocks expansion of EPA's water regulations for Missouri, 12 other states

A farm pond in southern Illinois
Deb Rednour

Missouri is one of 13 states that won a reprieve from a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that expands the definition of a navigable waterway.

The ruling comes after the states sued, claiming that the new Waters of the U.S. definition went too far, to the point of including ponds, channels that are dry most of the time, and streams that only flow when it’s raining.

In his decision, federal judge Ralph Erikson said he blocked the rule based on "the likelihood of success" by the 13 states "because (1) it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue, and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with (Administrative Procedures Act) requirements when promulgating the Rule."

The full ruling can be viewed here.

Attorney General Chris Koster, who filed suit on behalf of Missouri, issued the following statement:

"In issuing the preliminary injunction, the federal court sent an unmistakable message to the EPA: You have gone too far. Missouri's land and water resources should be regulated by officials accountable to the people of the state, not by arbitrary standards dictated from Washington, D.C."

Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst released a statement praising the decision, calling it a reprieve for farmers.

"The strongly worded decision by the judge found that the agencies likely both violated the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. Although the EPA has indicated they will enforce the new rule beginning today in the states not covered by the injunction, the decision is good news for farmers in Missouri. Attorney General Chris Koster and the state of Missouri were leaders in securing the injunction. "The judge found the rule to be arbitrary and overreaching, agreeing with criticisms from farmers and the states that brought the suit. The EPA finds itself increasingly isolated, with a strong vote in the U.S. House of Representatives against the rule, private memos from the Corps of Engineers sharply criticizing the rule, opposition from a majority of state governments, and overwhelming public opposition.  "

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, on the other hand, criticized Judge Erikson's ruling, in a brief statement from executive director Heather Navarro.

"Missouri has yet to meet the 1983 deadlines of the Clean Water Act. We cannot afford further delay. This ruling denies protections to vital Missouri waters while allowing polluters to continue degrading the natural resources all of us downstream depend upon."

Meanwhile, the new rule is being enforced in the 37 states that are not plaintiffs in the suit, according to a statement released by the EPA's Washington office. It reads in part:

"Under the order issued by the District Court of North Dakota, the parties that obtained the preliminary injunction are not subject to the new rule, and instead continue to be subject to the prior regulation. In light of the order, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will continue to implement the prior regulation in the following States: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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