DC Circuit Vacates EPA's Delay of Chemical Plants Rule

Mindy Sparks
August 19, 2018

The ruling ends the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' suspension of clean water protections under the Clean Water Act. The delay 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.

Whether or not the federal government can regulate activity around some farm ponds, wetlands and streams now depends on which state contains the waterway.

Plant operators complained the rule was too burdensome, a view shared by the former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who announced the delay in June past year.

OH will join 25 other states that accept the Obama era 2015 ruling.

In a motion for summary judgment brought by a coalition of conservation groups, Judge David C. Norton of the U.S. District Court for the District of SC in Charleston found that the federal government failed to comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in implementing the Suspension Rule, a two-year delay of the CWR enacted in February by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. A total of 11 states allied with environmental groups to successfully challenge this rollback.

The legal wrangling that has occurred since Obama's EPA finalized the 2015 rule still leaves the nation divided on the Clean Water Act rule, with the rule in effect in some states but not in others.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the initial challenge in February on behalf of American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Charleston Waterkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Coastal Conservation League, Friends of the Rappahannock, North Carolina Coastal Federation, and North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

The court held that the agencies refusal to allow meaningful public comment doomed the rule, stating that "An illusory opportunity to comment is no opportunity at all". "The court makes clear that the Trump administration can not ignore the law, science, or the views of the American people in its rush to undermine protection of rivers and clean water".

Duvall urged the administration to immediately take action to limit the scope of the ruling to SC while working to repeal the 2015 rule.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, called on the agencies to "take immediate steps to limit the impact of this risky court decision".

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also issued a statement Thursday afternoon warning that the court's ruling means WOTUS remains a threat for farmers and ranchers. "The South Carolina court has effectively brought WOTUS back from the dead in 26 states, creating a zombie version of the 2015 rule that threatens the rights of farmers and ranchers across the country. NCBA will continue to fight in the courts and in Congress to kill the 2015 WOTUS rule once and for all". Last month, EPA and the Army Corps said they plan to repeal the CWR, rather than modify it, arguing that the definition has led to regulatory uncertainty and runs afoul of previous rulings by the Supreme Court.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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