New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday led a multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration in federal court for delaying the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged the EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act by short-circuiting the public comment process to delay implementation of the rule. Nine other states and the District of Columbia signed onto the lawsuit: California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Massachusetts. All of the attorneys general suing are Democrats.
“The agencies have suspended the Clean Water Rule without consideration of the extensive scientific record that supported it or the environmental and public health consequences of doing so,” the plaintiffs said in the suit. “The agencies have undertaken this redefinition with inadequate public notice and opportunity for comment, insufficient record support, and outside their statutory authority, illegally suspending a rule that became effective more than two years ago.”
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a finalized regulation Wednesday delaying the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule.
The states say EPA avoided the customary 30-day waiting period between publishing the final rule in the Federal Register and when it goes into effect, making the delay effective today.
Pruitt's action postpones the regulation until 2020, as the EPA goes about a process of writing its own version.
The Obama administration rule, published in June 2015, intended to clarify which waters and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act and are subject to federal regulation by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The definition of a waterway under the rule includes everything from a drainage ditch to streams and rivers. That means many more areas would fall under EPA's enforcement jurisdiction and control, from farmers to individual homeowners to oil companies, critics of the rule say.
President Trump issued an executive order in February to re-evaluate the rule, starting the lengthy regulatory process of blocking and re-writing it.
The EPA plans to issue a proposed new regulation in April or May. Pruitt aims to finalize the revised rule by the end of the year.