Injunction against federal water rule may expand

AP News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2015 2:39 PM

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota is allowing arguments over the scope of his injunction blocking a new Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some smaller waterways.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo issued a temporary injunction last week that was requested by North Dakota and 12 other states to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating some small streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The EPA maintains that injunction applied only to the 13 states said it began enforcing the rule in all other states on Friday.

"There appears to be a dispute between the parties as to the breadth of the court's order granting the motion for a preliminary injunction," the judge wrote in a brief to attorneys in the case. "Each side may file a brief addressing the issue of whether the injunction applies nationally or in a limited geographic area." The deadline was Tuesday at 5 p.m. CDT, the judge said.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who filed the injunction request, tells The Associated Press that he and other lawyers from the 13 states believe the EPA , by enforcing the rule in the 37 other states, is doing so "contrary to, and in defiance of, the court's order."

The EPA said in a statement that it and the Army Corps are "considering next steps in the litigation."

The 13 states exempted for now are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The 13 states say the regulation is unnecessary and infringes on their sovereignty. The federal government said the new rule clarifies ambiguity in the law and actually makes it easier for the states to manage some waterways

Erickson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003, said in his ruling last week that the EPA had exceeded its authority in issuing the regulation.