After the Texas attorney general’s office threatened to appeal to a higher court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted a request for a temporary injunction on the implementation of the 2015 Waters of the United States, or WOTUS rule, in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Texas court said its decision to issue the ruling was based “primarily” on the interest of the public. As a result, WOTUS is now on hold in 27 states and in effect in 23 states. “This is a big win for farmers and ranchers in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas,” said Andy Gipson, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce.
A South Carolina court’s Aug. 16 ruling allowed the WOTUS rule to become effective in 26 states and on hold in 24 states based in-part, the court said, on their claim the EPA did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act when finalizing its rule to delay the 2015 WOTUS for two years. Tennessee is the only Mid-South state in which the ruling is not on hold.
“The way this entire process has been handled is not the way the United States is supposed to operate,” says Dr. Mike Strain, Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. “We are one country and it must be uniform for all states. It needs to be either a stay or repealed in every state.”
The attorney generals in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi have twice requested injunctive relief from the Obama-era regulation. In the second request, made in February 2016, the plaintiffs’ stated, in part, “…absent a ruling on their long-outstanding preliminary injunction request, they would be compelled to seek a writ of mandamus from the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans) directing this court to rule on the pending motion for preliminary injunction.”
A writ of mandamus from the Fifth Circuit court would have ordered the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to respond to the attorney generals’ request for injunction.
The American Farm Bureau filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., in hopes of overturning the previous ruling by the U.S. District Court for South Carolina that threw out the EPA rule to delay the implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule by two years until 2020. The motion, filed on Aug. 20, asked for a stay pending that appeal, but the court has not ruled on that request.
A suspended rule would have given the EPA until 2020 to complete a rewrite of WOTUS.