Judge Daniel L. Hovland’s ruling this week follows an injunction by Texas Federal Judge Jeffrey Brown, who put the WOTUS rule on hold in Texas and Idaho in March. Hovland agreed with the 24 filing states that WOTUS poses a threat to sovereign rights and amounts to irreparable harm.
“The Clean Water Act is one of the country’s most important environmental laws,” wrote Hovland. “Unfortunately, the Act has also created a litany of chaos and uncertainty around the country.”
On February 21, interested states and groups filed the motion for a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. That was before President Joe Biden vetoed a bipartisan WOTUS resolution of disapproval last week under the Congressional Review Act. Farmers were understandably frustrated.
»Related: It’s understandable that farmers aren’t happy with the new WOTUS rules
While the EPA has argued that the public will benefit from the clarity the new WOTUS rule provides, Hovland stated his disagreement: “Suffice it to say the Clean Water Act, and the varied and different definitions of ‘waters of the United States,’ have created nothing but confusion, uncertainty, unpredictability, and endless litigation throughout this country to date.”
The states receiving temporary relief from Hovland are West Virginia, North Dakota, Georgia, Iowa, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Currently, 20 states have not challenged the 2023 rule. And Hovland states that the 2023 rule should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, likely to come in June, on Sackett v. EPA.
Agricultural groups have weighed in, praising Hovland’s decision:
“Once again, the courts have affirmed that the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule is overreaching and harmful to America’s beef farmers and ranchers,” said Todd Wilkinson, president of the NCBA. “Cattle producers in 26 states now have some additional certainty while this rule is being litigated and we are optimistic that the Supreme Court will provide nationwide clarity on the federal government’s proper jurisdiction over water.”
“Here’s the bottom line: clean water is important to all of us and farmers and ranchers certainly share the goal of caring for our natural resources,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “We depend on them for our livelihoods — all we’re asking for is a sensible rule that farmers can interpret without hiring a team of lawyers.”