National Injunction Denied: WOTUS Rule Stays in Effect in 37 States


by Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — An injunction blocking implementation of the waters of the United States rule does not apply to all 50 states and instead will remain in effect in just 13 states, the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota said in a ruling Friday.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups wanted to expand the injunction nationally after a court blocked the rule in North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and New Mexico.

The court ruling is a partial victory for EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in allowing the waters of the U.S. rule to go into effect in 37 states.

It would not have been unprecedented for the court to apply the injunction nationally as it does have the discretion to do so. Still, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson stated in a ruling that a national injunction would not be correct because there were multiple legal interests and questions raised in other jurisdictions.

“Courts have broad discretionary power in crafting a preliminary injunction, including the authority to provide for nationwide applicability of the injunction,” the judge stated in his ruling. “It goes without saying, however, that the competence to act should not be conflated with the idea that it is propitious to act. In the instant case, there are significant prudential reasons to limit the scope of the preliminary injunction to the entities actually before the court.”

Erickson noted the North Dakota district also wanted to respect the decision-making authority of other courts that have ruled on the waters of the U.S. issue, as well as respect the states that may want the Clean Water Rule implemented.

“Based on these considerations the court is of the opinion that the agencies should be enjoined from enforcing the rule only to the immediate plaintiffs.”

In the ruling, Erickson said it wouldn't be prudent to issue a national injunction because of the various ongoing cases challenging the rule.

“A district court has broad discretion in its power to shape a preliminary injunction,” the judge said. “Equitable decrees, such as a preliminary injunction, 'are a special blend of what is necessary, what is fair, and what is workable.' While a district court may exercise its discretion to extend injunctive power beyond the parties to the case, nothing requires the court to do so.”

So far four courts have denied preliminary injunctions in cases attempting to stop the rule. Two courts denied preliminary injunctions because the courts found they lacked jurisdiction. The remaining two courts deferred decisions until a judicial panel for multi-district litigation decides on consolidation of the district court cases.

In all, seven states and the District of Columbia have moved to intervene on behalf of the agencies in the Sixth Circuit Court.

“The court has fully explained its reasoning for the issuance of the injunction and there are compelling reasons in favor of both extension of the injunction and limitation of the injunction,” Erickson said. “On the one hand, there is a desirability for uniformity regarding a national rule with national application. On the other hand, there is the idea of respecting the decisions of other courts and other sovereign states. As the matter is left to the sound discretion of the court, it suffices to recognize that the decision involves balancing the interests of competing sovereign entities, as well as undermining the ruling of other courts.”




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