The intent of the Rule, according to the United States, is to provide greater clarity over the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act following a string of Supreme Court decisions limiting the reach of federal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) and Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). According to agriculture and industry groups, the Rule is an unprecedented expansion of federal authority that vastly increases the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act, will have a widespread negative economic impact, and profoundly infringes on private property rights.
The Rule has been opposed in Congress and, via a July 28 letter, by officials in 31 states that have asked EPA and the Corps to delay implementation of the Rule. A number of states and business groups have already filed challenges to the rulemaking in federal district courts. For example, on July 10, 2015, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with the National Federation of Independent Business, Portland Cement Association, State Chamber of Oklahoma and Tulsa Regional Chamber, filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in Oklahoma federal court. See Chamber of Commerce et al. v. EPA, Case No. 4:15-cv-00386 (D.Okla. July 10, 2015).
On August 10, 2015, North Dakota and 12 other states -- Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Wyoming -- sought a preliminary injunction from the District of North Dakota to prevent implementation of the Rule. North Dakota, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al., Case No. 3:15-cv-00059 (D. N.D. June 29, 2015). The plaintiffs argued that a preliminary injunction was needed to maintain the status quo while the Rule’s legal failings were addressed by the federal courts.
On Thursday, August 27, Judge Ralph Erickson issued the requested preliminary injunction in an 18-page order that can be read here. In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Erickson found it more likely than not that the EPA and the Corps had overstepped their authority in promulgating the Rule and had failed to comply with aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. In balancing the potential harm of issuing a preliminary injunction, the Court concluded:
On balance, the harms favor the [plaintiff] States. The risk of irreparable harm to the States is both imminent and likely. More importantly delaying the Rule will cause the Agencies no appreciable harm. Delaying implementation to allow a full and final resolution on the merits is in the best interests of the public.Order at 15.
This preliminary injunction is sure to be appealed by the United States and signals the first of many legal salvos over the legitimacy of the Rule.
-- Tom Boer
For more information, contact Tom Boer at (415) 228-5413 or email@example.com.