A federal judge blocked the Biden administration from introducing environmental regulations that redefine how water resources are protected, but opponents say this was an example of overreach.
In his decision published late Sunday, Judge Jeffrey Brown ruled that the so-called Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late December “causes irreparable harm” to residents of Texas and Idaho, the two states challenging the rules in the lawsuit filed Jan. 18. Brown declined to issue a nationwide injunction, but noted that 25 other states have challenged the rule in two separate pending lawsuits.
While I continue to fight the rule in court, this preliminary injunction is a major blow to the Biden administration’s radical environmental agenda,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Monday. “The illegal rule would have saddled Texans across the state with crushing new regulations, slowing our state’s economic development and limiting our job growth.
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“Getting a court order will prevent the rule from going into effect,” Paxton added. “This is a major victory that protects the people of Texas from destructive federal force majeure.”
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
On December 30, the last business day of 2022, the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers quietly announced that they had approved the WOTUS regulation and that it would be implemented on Monday. After announcing it, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rule “protects our country’s waters.”
The rule ultimately opens the door for the federal government to regulate wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams and “relatively permanent” waterways, largely mimicking a pre-2015 environmental rule created during the Obama administration, which implemented the changes to an effort to prevent water pollution. . The regulation is a broad interpretation of which water sources require protection under the Clean Water Act.
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The Trump administration had rolled back Obama-era rules and relaxed federal protections for water sources, such as pools and ditches, that it did not consider navigable waterways or in need of federal oversight. However, a federal court rejected the reversal in 2021, implementing a middle ground WOTUS interpretation that did not go as far as the Obama administration.
“I am proud of the work our office is doing. We received criticism from the governor’s administration and some experts for our decision to join this lawsuit, but based on Judge Brown’s order, it is clear that I made the right move for Idaho,” he said. Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador. “My team and I formulated the best strategy to get the right result and the fastest relief.”
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“Together, we won a first victory to prevent the Biden administration from subjecting Idaho to federal overreach.”
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan said in December that the WOTUS ordinance “protects our nation’s waters.” (AP Photo / Matt Freed)
The lawsuit from Texas and joined by Idaho was also consolidated with a challenge from several industry groups asking the court to introduce a nationwide pause on the rule. Brown wrote in his decision that he “determined that they are not entitled to any provisional relief except that which has been granted to the States”.
Brown noted that Texas could provide evidence that compliance costs associated with the WOTUS rule would cost the state and taxpayers millions of dollars in the first year of implementation alone.
“States have already done irreparable damage because they will spend irrecoverable resources – monetary and otherwise – enforcing a rule that is unlikely to pass judicial review,” he wrote.
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Meanwhile, in October, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Sackett v. EPA, a case concerning an Idaho property owner whose home construction was denied by the EPA because of a WOTUS violation. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in the summer.
In addition, House Republicans have been targeting the ordinance, with nearly 200 members urging the Biden administration to repeal it in January. And earlier this month, the House passed bipartisan legislation to overturn the rule.
Thomas Catenacci is a political writer for Fox News Digital.