Federal judge issues limited preliminary injunction against Biden EPA water rule in Texas and Idaho

March 21, 2023
Ben Marquis

President Joe Biden's Environmental Protection Agency published a revised rule in January that dramatically expanded the federal government's jurisdiction over the "waters of the United States" within the Clean Water Act.

The rule change was challenged with a lawsuit filed by Texas and others, and now a U.S. district judge has granted a requested preliminary injunction to block the revised rule from being implemented and enforced, the Conservative Brief reported.

However, while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) called the ruling a "big victory," the preliminary injunction against the rule will only apply in Texas and Idaho, the two states that joined forces in the suit.

Biden EPA power grab

In a tweet posted Monday morning, Texas AG Paxton wrote, "Big victory against Biden: Last night a federal court blocked the Admin’s radical 'waters of the US' rule, which imposes a leftist environmental agenda on Texas, crushing new regs, and oppressive economic costs. I will always fight to keep Biden’s boots off the necks of Texans!"

Per a Monday press release from Paxton, President Biden's EPA, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had reinterpreted a portion of the Clean Water Act that, when initially passed by Congress, granted federal jurisdiction over all "navigable waters" that were used in "interstate" commerce.

The newly revised rule, which imposes a slew of criminal and financial penalties related to chemical pollutants that end up in the "waters of the United States," has now greatly expanded that federal jurisdiction to also include all non-navigable and intrastate waterways that had previously been left for the individual states and local governments to manage.

AG Paxton said in a statement, "While I continue to battle the rule in court, this preliminary injunction is a major blow to the Biden Administration’s radical environmental agenda."

"The unlawful rule would have saddled Texans across the state with crushing new regulations, slowing our state’s economic development and limiting our job growth," he added. "Securing an injunction stops the rule from going into effect. This is an important victory protecting the people of Texas from destructive federal overreach."

Preliminary injunction issued, but only applicable to Texas and Idaho

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued the preliminary injunction in a 34-page order filed Sunday night.

The judge laid out the background on the rule change that was slated to go into effect on March 20, how it differed from the prior rule, and noted how Texas had first filed suit and then been later joined in that effort by the state of Idaho along with 18 national trade associations that would be impacted to some extent.

Notably, however, while the associations sought a nationwide injunction against the new rule, the states only asked for it to be applied within their sovereign territory, and given that the court only went so far as to determine that the states had proper standing to sue without reaching a similar determination for the associations, the nationwide injunction request was rejected and the limited request of the states was granted.

Court battle will continue to play out

The Conservative Brief reported that some of the environmentalist groups that supported the Biden EPA's rule change and joined the lawsuit on the side of the administration were quite predictably upset by Judge Brown's ordered injunction in Texas and Idaho and issued statements to that effect.

It seems quite likely that the Biden administration will appeal this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and quite possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court -- which has in the past rejected prior EPA attempts to expand the "waters of the United States" rule under other administrations.

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