On May 28, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas invalidated the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 expansion of federal jurisdiction over small and isolated waters.
The litigation, Texas v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, objected to the rule’s definition of “adjacent waters” near an environmentally protected waterway, according to Texas Lawyer. Rather than relying on ecological or hydrological criteria to determine what’s an “adjacent water,” the rule said an adjacent water is located a certain distance from the protected river, changing a decades-old definition.
The court ruled the agency violated basic requirements of fair process when they concluded the 2015 rulemaking without first releasing for comment a key report that was the basis for many of their most controversial decisions, according to American Farm Bureau Federation.
U.S. District Court Judge George Hanks Jr. did not rule on the merits and didn’t vacate the Clean Water Act change, according to the Houston Chronicle. The 2015 rule remains in effect in 22 states and is blocked by legal decision in 28 others.
The suit was brought by three states (Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) and 17 trade associations.
This is the first court to reach a final decision on the lawfulness of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, according to AFBF. Several court decisions have preliminarily blocked the rule in many states while the litigation progressed.
The judge remanded the rule to EPA and the Army Corps. The agencies are already working on a plan to scrap the regulation as soon as August and replace it by the end of the year, according to E&E News.
Click the download button below for a copy of the court's decision, courtesy of American Farm Bureau Federation.