In February, a federal court ruled that the EPA could not delay a regulation limiting methane emissions from oil and gas installations and this week a federal judge reinstated the Waters of the United States rule, which the Trump administration had delayed. Kentucky and West Virginia waterways will be regulated by policy implemented in the 1980s, where other district court injunctions remain in place. The Clean Water Act prohibits discharge of pollutants from a point source into "navigable waters" without a permit.
The Trump administration finalized its delay of the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the USA, or WOTUS, rule in February. The decision by the U.S. District Court in SC means that the so-called Clean Water Rule is again operative in 26 states where district courts have not halted the regulation. On the same day that the Suspension Rule went into effect, environmental plaintiffs filed suit against the manner in which the Suspension Rule was enacted saying it violated the Administrative Procedure Act because there was insufficient public notice and comment period. "The delayed rule would have maintained regulatory certainty and stability while the Administration completes its reconsideration of the 2015 rule and works to develop a new regulation to provide both clean water and clear rules". The agencies failed at their most basic responsibilities: evaluating the effect of their reckless actions and allowing the public to comment on their decision to eliminate scientifically backed protections for rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.
On this basis the court issued a nationwide injunction against the suspension rule.
Because of court actions in other cases, the 2015 rule remains on hold in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, South Dakota, Missouri, Alaska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.
Duvall urged the administration to immediately take action to limit the scope of the ruling to SC while working to repeal the 2015 rule.
These regulations will increase business uncertainty and farming costs.
"While work continues to develop a commonsense and lawful solution, we urge the Administration to immediately take action in the courts to limit the scope of this injunction to SC. We also urge the Administration to move as quickly as possible to a final decision to repeal the 2015 rule", Duvall said.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager said the ruling creates a "zombie WOTUS".
The EPA can not delay the rule "by invoking general rulemaking authority under a different statutory provision", of federal clean air law, the court said in the ruling.
EPA had acted after President Obama issued an executive order directing EPA's administrator and the secretary of Labor to review the chemical hazards covred by the Risk Management Program and determine, in light of the accidents, they should be expanded to address additional hazards.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has a completely different take, calling the ruling "misguided" and the WOTUS rule itself "overbroad, vague and illegal".