U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood granted a motion in Brunswick, Friday, for a preliminary injunction, on behalf of a group of mostly Southern and Midwestern states, that sued a group of federal agencies to prevent the implementation of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule.
In her order, Wood wrote that the states — Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin — met the burden of persuasion on each of the four factors necessary.
“Three of the four factors (substantial likelihood of success on the merits, balance of harms and public interest) weigh overwhelmingly in plaintiffs’ favor,” Wood wrote. “One, substantial threat of irreparable injury, is a closer call, yet has been satisfied.”
The purpose of the rule, as explained by the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency, was to protect “streams and wetland that are scientifically shown to have the greatest impact on downstream water quality and for the foundation of our nation’s water resources. EPA and the U.S. Army are ensuring that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined, more predictable, easier for business and industry to understand and consistent with the law and the latest science.”
Georgia Solicitor-General Sarah Hawkins Warren said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Brunswick on the injunction that the rule impinges on state sovereignty to control their own land and water, and it would cause states irreparable harm. The rule has also been criticized for being overly broad and subject to any number of interpretations.
The National Wildlife Foundation and Brunswick-based One Hundred Miles — which are attempting to join the lawsuit as intervenors — filed a brief Wednesday, before the order, in which attorneys for the conservation groups argued the matter is not ready for judicial review, and moreover, there is no imminent threat of harm.
As stated in the brief, “To grant a preliminary injunction on the current facts would baselessly inject an extraordinary judicial remedy into an ongoing administrative process that has removed any claim of actual imminent harm to the plaintiffs.”
Current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in January the suspension of the WOTUS rule through at least 2020.