Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is pleased with a federal court order to impose an immediate preliminary injunction on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from enforcing its regulatory changes to the Clean Water Act known as the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.

North Dakota District Court Judge Ralph Erickson determined that the 13 states suing to stop the rule from taking effect (today) met the criteria needed for a preliminary injunction, including the states would likely be harmed if the courts didn’t act and that the states are likely to succeed when their underlying lawsuit against the rule is decided.  EPA, however, says the injunction only applies to the 13 states (not including Pennsylvania) that filed the suit and it plans to move ahead with enforcement of the rule in states not involved in the lawsuit.

“While EPA has tried to posture the legal impact of the ruling on Pennsylvania and other states, it has received a clear and well-reasoned directive from federal court that it will likely lose its case against challengers to the WOTUS rule.  A prudent agency should be very reluctant to move forward with any plan to implement or enforce a regulation that a competent court has initially found to be illegal until the legal process in the North Dakota case is fully completed.  We hope and expect EPA to be prudent in putting this illegal rule on hold nationwide,” said PFB President Rick Ebert.

Meanwhile, the judge’s decision seems to be in accordance with the misgivings of the rule expressed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which supposedly partnered with EPA in the rulemaking process.  Specifically, more than 50 pages of Corps documents, which were recently released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, revealed the Corps numerous concerns with the final rule rolled out by EPA.  The documents state that EPA’s use of information provided by the Corps is a “Gross misrepresentation of Corps raw data,” and “It will be legally vulnerable, difficult to defend in court, difficult for the Corp to explain or justify and challenging for the Corps to implement.”

“The rule is scientifically and legally flawed and clearly goes well beyond the authority granted to the agencies through the Clean Water Act.  Under the broad definitions included in the WOTUS rule, virtually all of Pennsylvania’s land mass can be claimed by EPA officials as a ‘regulated water,’ subjecting landowners and communities to extreme and needless federal permitting requirements and land use restrictions,” added Ebert. “It’s time for EPA to recognize the faults in its rule and begin a new process focused on making real water quality improvements without unfairly restricting the ability of farmers to grow food on their land.”