A proposed federal environmental regulation was likely “arbitrary and capricious,” caused “irreparable harm,” and had an adverse effect on the public interest, a federal judge ruled late Thursday.
In the 13-page ruling, Chief District Judge for the District of North Dakota Ralph R. Erickson issued an injunction against the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation until it could be litigated further in federal court.
The regulation, which was scheduled to take effect Friday (Aug. 28), is controversial. Supporters say it will help protect the environment while opponents say the regulation is wide-ranging and would have a negative impact on the farm economy.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the ruling from Erickson showed that the regulation was out of bounds.
“Today’s ruling from the District Court is an important victory for Arkansas,” Rutledge said. “EPA’s WOTUS rule goes beyond the scope intended by Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act. At the very least, until these facts can be fully litigated in court, it is important that this damaging rule not harm Arkansas’s farmers and ranchers. This injunction is an important first step in a legal battle to show that the EPA exceeded its authority.”
In the ruling, Erickson said Arkansas and 12 other states made their case on the regulation.
“On balance, the harms favor the 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,” Erickson wrote.
“The court acknowledges that implementation of the Rule will provide a benefit to an important public interest, both in providing some protection to the waters of the United States and because it would provide increased certainty as to what constitutes jurisdictional waters as some people will be categorically removed from the definition of waters of the United States (for example owners of an intermittent wetland 4,001 feet away from an established tributary).”
Erickson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003, said in the ruling that an injunction would have a strong impact on residents.
“The benefit of that increased certainty would extend to a finite and relatively small percentage of the public. A far broader segment of the public would benefit from the preliminary injunction because it would ensure that federal agencies do not extend their power beyond the express delegation from Congress. A balancing of the harms and analysis of the public interest reveals that the risk of harm to the States is great and the burden on the Agencies is slight. On the whole, the greater public interest favors issuance of the preliminary injunction,” Erickson said in his opinion.
The injunction drew the ire of environmentalists.
According to the Washington D.C. publication, The Hill, an official with the League of Conservation Voters blasted the decision.
“This is a terrible decision for the 1 in 3 Americans who have already been waiting too long for these vital protections for their drinking water,” Madeleine Foote, the group’s legislative representative, told the Hill. “The District Court for North Dakota’s decision puts the interests of big polluters over people in need of clean water,” Foote said.