A Federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s delay of implementation of the Clean Water Rule in Oklahoma and 25 other states. The ruling means the Waters of the United States rule will be reinstated and the nationwide injunction on the suspension is on hold.
The judge in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina ruled the Environmental Protection Agency had not followed the rule-making procedures and failed to give an adequate public notice and comment period as required under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Southern Environmental Law Center sued on behalf of several environmental groups, saying the administration rushed the rulemaking and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
U.S. District Judge David Norton for the District of South Carolina agreed with the greens.
“As administrations change, so do regulatory priorities. But the requirements of the APA remain the same. The court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements in implementing the Suspension Rule,” the court wrote.
WOTUS now applies in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
The Trump administration made its first moves to block WOTUS in January. President Trump officially signed the order directing the EPA to reconsider the 2015 rule in February.
The rule asserted federal power over small waterways like wetlands and streams for the purposes of controlling pollution under the Clean Water Act. Trump promised on the campaign trail to repeal the regulation.
“It’s a horrible, horrible rule. Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony, surrounded by Vice President Pence, first lady Melania Trump and top opponents of the regulation, including newly installed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio.).
Environmental groups hailed the courts decision Thursday as a victory.
“Today’s federal injunction is a victory for communities across the country seeking access to clean drinking water. The Clean Water Rule is a landmark policy that protects the water of one in three Americans,” Athan Manuel, Sierra Club’s director of lands protection, said in a statement. “They should not have to ‘delay’ having access to clean water so polluters can fatten their wallets.”