North Dakota federal judge blocks EPA waterway jurisdiction rule

North Dakota federal judge blocks EPA waterway jurisdiction rule

[JURIST] US District Judge Ralph Erickson of the US District Court of the District of North Dakota [official website] in Fargo on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] against a rule granting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers [official websites] jurisdiction over small US waterways. Erickson blocked [AP report] the grant of jurisdiction that was scheduled to go into effect Friday on the basis that the rule likely exceeds the authority of the EPA under the Clean Water Act (CWA) [legislative materials] and for failing to define in sufficient detail the waterways that will no longer fall under state jurisdiction. The EPA asserts that the injunction applies only to the 13 states party to the filing, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, and the new rule will go into effect as scheduled for all other states.

The rule is of particular concern to the agriculture industry, as farmers argue that it could be applied to drainage ditches on farmland. In another recent case involving the CWA, two environmental groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in December against the Environmental Protection Agency accusing the agency of failing to comply with a court order to strengthen storm drain pollution regulation. In 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that water flowing through a concrete channel from different points in the river does not create a pollutant [JURIST report] under the CWA.