North Dakota court partially blocks WOTUS implementation

A federal district court judge for the District of North Dakota issued an injunction to block the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule from going into effect until a full trial on the legality of the rule can be conducted.

Burt Rutherford, Senior Editor

August 28, 2015

3 Min Read
North Dakota court partially blocks WOTUS implementation
<p>Cattle enjoy a water pond on a summer day</p>

In a move that many landowners, small businesses and others fervently hoped would come to pass, Judge Ralph Erickson, a federal district court judge for the District of North Dakota, issued an injunction to block the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule from going into effect until a full trial on the legality of the rule can be conducted.

In his opinion, Judge Erickson said it appears the EPA "has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue," according to the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. However, the rule only partially blocks EPA and the Army Corps oif Engineers from implementing the rule. Judge Erickson’s rule affects 13 states—North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and two state agencies in New Mexico. These states that filed the lawsuit "have demonstrated that they will face irreparable harm" if the rule were to go into effect Aug. 28, Erickson said.

In a statement Friday morning, NCBA President Philip Ellis said, “America’s cattlemen and women applaud the decision of the federal judge in North Dakota to block EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule, which was set to go in effect Aug. 28. EPA’s rule is nothing more than an attempt to put more land and water under federal jurisdiction, blatantly disregarding private property rights.

“Over the last year and a half, the agency continually ignored the concerns of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, farmers, ranchers and landowners across the country, to the point of calling the concerns of cattle producers ludicrous. In fact, only six months after receiving over 1 million comments, the agency pushed forward to finalize the rule, a clear indication there was no intention of considering public comment or stakeholder input. While the EPA claims it clarifies the Clean Water Act, even the Army Corps, which shares jurisdiction over the rule, has serious concerns for the scientific basis of the rule making.

“In a statement released shortly after the decision was made, an EPA spokesperson said the ruling only holds for 13 states and that they plan to implement the rule in all others on Friday. If the EPA actually wants to protect navigable waters as it claims, they will put this subjective and ambiguous rule to rest and start over with stakeholders at the table this time around.”

In Missouri, one of the states that falls under the injunction, cattle producers are cautiously optimistic, according to Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA)President Janet Akers.

"This administration's intentional land and water grab is a pervasive invasion of private property rights. This administration ignored concerns from the Army Corps of Engineers, farmers, ranchers, attorney generals from numerous states, small businesses and more,"  Akers says. "I am sure the administration considers (the injunction) decision a minor roadblock and that's why we must continue the fight against this rule." 

Akers said the rule would put nearly all private property in Missouri under the jurisdictional authority of the EPA. She said this would result in "costly and unnecessary" permits for all landowners; not just farmers and ranchers.

Akers said this rule must be pulled back permanently. She said MCA, along with nearly all Missouri agricultural organizations, supports S.B. 1140, which basically tells the Obama administration's agencies to "ditch the rule" and start over.  


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About the Author(s)

Burt Rutherford

Senior Editor, BEEF Magazine

Burt Rutherford is director of content and senior editor of BEEF. He has nearly 40 years’ experience communicating about the beef industry. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works from his home base in Colorado. He worked as communications director for the North American Limousin Foundation and editor of the Western Livestock Journal before spending 21 years as communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He works to keep BEEF readers informed of trends and production practices to bolster the bottom line.

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