WOTUS Injunction Rejected in West Virginia


by Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — A federal judge Wednesday dismissed a challenge to the waters of the United States rule based on lack of jurisdiction, in a ruling that could end other attempts to stop the rule slated to take effect Friday.

On Wednesday the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia dismissed a complaint filed by Murray Energy Corp. The company had asked the court for an emergency injunction to stop the rule.

Attorneys for EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday offered the West Virginia ruling as evidence in support of their motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction requests for injunctions in the U.S. District Courts for the District of North Dakota and for the Southern District of Georgia.

In courts where emergency injunctions were requested, attorneys for EPA and the Corps argued those courts do not have jurisdiction and any injunction should be sought in the Sixth Circuit Court where the cases have been consolidated.

Attorneys for a number of states and the federal government filed a number of motions and other documents with the North Dakota court Wednesday.

The West Virginia court concluded it did not have authority to address a number of issues raised in court.

“They (federal government) contend that the complaint of the plaintiff, Murray Energy Corporation, must be brought in the appropriate circuit court of appeals,” the West Virginia court said in its ruling. “Murray disputes this challenge, arguing that jurisdiction properly lies in the district court. Based on the prevailing interpretation of the relevant statute, this court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction over this matter. It therefore dismisses without prejudice Murray's complaint, and denies as moot all pending motions.”

Murray Energy Corp. has filed a motion for an emergency injunction in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals as well, according to the opinion from the West Virginia court.

“The court agrees that a jurisdictional determination is proper, and, after carefully reviewing the relevant statutes and decisions, concludes that, under the law of the Fourth Circuit, jurisdiction over Murray's challenges to the Clean Water Rule is vested exclusively in the Sixth Circuit,” the court said.

There are several moving parts to the legal challenge waged against EPA to stop the rule. In all, 28 states have filed lawsuits in various jurisdictions. The cases have largely been consolidated to one court — the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. However, there are a handful of court challenges filed in various other courts.

Similar rulings could be issued by the courts in North Dakota and Georgia Thursday.

In requests for emergency injunctions, plaintiffs have claimed the rule will cause harm before legal challenges can be posed.

Attorneys general in many of the states had asked EPA to delay implementation by nine months to allow legal proceedings to proceed. The agency did not respond to the request.

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