Litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency's clean water rules reached a fevered pitch on Tuesday.
Nine states added to a frenzy of lawsuits being leveled against the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers after the Waters of the United States rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday.
The publishing of the rule marks the day a regulation officially becomes law, and thus ripe for litigation.
North Dakota led a group of 13 states Monday in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Bismarck, challenging the EPA over the rule. The states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, and the New Mexico Environment Department and State Engineer.
Officials say the goal is to delay or defeat the regulations before they take effect at the end of August.
West Virginia led the charge with eight other states in a separate court filing against the EPA on Tuesday. The states argue that the rules undermine the constitutional rights of states to manage their own waterways.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the rules "regulatory lunacy."
The regulations extend the EPA's and the Army Corps' regulatory reach over what is termed "navigable waters," which ranchers, farmers and states argue gives the federal agencies' unprecedented authority over drainage ditches and nearly anything else that can contain water.
"This rule is a staggering overreach by the federal government and violates the very law it claims to enforce," Morrissey said. "It will have dire consequences for homeowners, farmers and other entities by forcing them to navigate a complex federal bureaucracy and obtain costly permits in order to perform everyday tasks like digging ditches, building fences or spraying fertilizers."
The litigation included West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.
The lawsuit argues that the rule violates the Constitution, the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, and "usurps the states' primary responsibility for the management, protection and care of intrastate waters and lands," according to a statement from Morrisey's office.
Tuesday's lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
But that is not the end of the legal challenges. National trade associations from a broad range of sectors are preparing to file lawsuits as soon as this week in a legal tour de force, which could set a record on the number of litigants filing over one regulation in just a few days.
A coalition of industry trade associations that include livestock producers, the oil and coal mining industries, and others are preparing an additional challenge that could come as soon as this week.
The Water Advocacy Coalition, or WAC, includes the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Home Builders.
Chase Adams, spokesman with the cattlemen's association, confirmed to the Washington Examiner that litigation is in the works and could be filed as soon as this week.
Colin Woodall, federal affairs vice president for the cattlemen, told the Southern Farm Network on Monday that the groups were preparing the sue EPA over the clean water rules. Woodall said the legal challenge will take a similar tack as the states' suits.
Woodall said the groups want to "try to force this fight into the courts to show that EPA has gone beyond their jurisdiction and has violated a lot of the Procedures Act rules in trying to put this proposed rule forward and making it final."
"We think this is one of a few opportunities we still have" to stop the regulations from taking effect, Woodall said. The rule's implementation begins on Aug. 28.
West Virginia had recently led a group of 14 states in challenging the EPA's emission rules for existing power plants, which also included a handful of coal companies. That suit was shot down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals because the judges decided the rule wasn't yet ripe for litigation.
The emission rules, known as the Clean Power Plan, are not final. EPA expects to make the power plant rules final later this summer, which is expected to also gather record litigation.
Woodall also said that the water rule lawsuit could also charge that the EPA engaged in an illegal lobbying campaign to have letters of support submitted by the thousands when the rule was still in its comment phase.
"That has already come into play with the action on Capitol Hill, and members of Congress being concerned with the lobbying that the EPA did to get comments and letters of support for their side," Woodall said. "It's unprecedented by a federal agency. It's not supposed to be a situation where an agency goes out and actively looks for support."
"We have to ask ourselves who were truly interested in this rule to comment and who was doing it at the request of EPA," Woodall said.
Sen. David Vitters, R-La., has been leading the charge in the Senate to rein in the EPA on the rule. On Tuesday, he sent EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy a letter asking her to respond to reports that the agency allegedly teamed up with environmental advocates to push the rule through, while ignoring the small business community.
Vitter is the chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. Vitter said in a statement that the agency's "conduct during the [Waters of the United States] rulemaking process could be a major violation of federal law, and even now when the rule is finalized, the question remains: Why is EPA still failing to be forthright?"