TOPEKA - (June 11, 2018) - A federal district court on Friday prohibited the federal government from implementing the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced today.
The WOTUS rule, which sought to vastly expand the definition of “waters of the United States” to include ditches, ponds, and wetlands in order to more aggressively regulate private land use under the authority of the federal Clean Water Act, has faced numerous legal challenges since it was finalized by the Obama Administration in 2015. Kansas filed a lawsuit seeking to block the implementation of the rule the day after it was announced, but the litigation was delayed by a legal dispute over jurisdiction that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this year, Kansas won the jurisdiction argument in the Supreme Court, but in the interim the Trump Administration assumed office and announced it was delaying WOTUS until 2020 with the intention to revise it.
Still, in light of multiple challenges by supporters of the 2015 rule to block the Trump Administration plans to change the rule, Kansas pressed ahead with its lawsuit.
“This injunction ensures that the Obama-era WOTUS rule will not be implemented in Kansas,” Schmidt said. “Even if the federal government changes its mind or if other courts reject the government's decision to delay WOTUS until 2020, Kansas will be protected. This injunction brings certainty to farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and other private property owners.”
In entering the injunction, Federal District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected the federal government's assertion that its delay of WOTUS until 2020 made the injunction unnecessary.
“[I]f the WOTUS Rule becomes effective before a final decision on the merits is rendered, farmers, homeowners, and small businesses will need to devote time and expense to obtaining federal permits—all to comply with a rule that is likely to be invalidated,” she wrote.
The case is State of Georgia, et al. v. Scott Pruitt, et al., Case No. 2:15-cv-79-LGW-RSB, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. A copy of the preliminary injunction is available at https://bit.ly/2LG9ahh.