Bush-Appointed Federal Judge Blocks Obama Water Rule Citing ‘Risk of Irreparable Harm’

Gina McCarthy
Gina McCarthy / AP

A federal judge in North Dakota appointed by George W. Bush blocked an Obama administration rule Thursday that would allow the federal government to regulate certain streams and other small waterways.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson issued a temporary injunction requested by 13 states including North Dakota blocking the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating small streams, tributaries, and wetlands as directed under the Clean Water Act.

While North Dakota’s attorney general, who filed the request, interpreted the ruling as applying to all 50 states, the EPA insisted that it only stretches to the 13 that sued for the injunction. The rule is set to take effect everywhere else on Friday.

According to Erickson’s ruling, the EPA has exceeded its authority by creating the rule, which requires landowners to obtain a permit if they take actions that would pollute or harm the regulated bodies of water. The agricultural industry has vehemently pushed back on the regulation.

"The risk of irreparable harm to the states is both imminent and likely," Erickson said when granting the temporary injunction, alleging that the rule would force "jurisdictional studies" of each proposed natural gas, oil, or water pipeline project in North Dakota.

"While the exact amount of land that would be subject to the increase is hotly disputed, the agencies admit to an increase in control over those traditional state-regulated waters of between 2.84 to 4.65 percent," he wrote in the ruling.

According to officials in North Dakota, the rule would cost the state millions of dollars.

In addition to North Dakota, the other states exempt from the rule are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming.