President Obama’s push to extend the EPA’s regulatory hand to ditches and small streams to enforce clean water rules was blocked Thursday by a federal judge, who said the administration had overstepped its bounds in trying yet another end run around Congress.
Judge Ralph R. Erickson called the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt “inexplicable, arbitrary and devoid of a reasoned process,” and issued an injunction preventing the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from claiming oversight of millions of acres of land that contain small bodies of water.
The EPA, though, said it will only honor the injunction in the 13 states that had sued, and will move forward with the rules in the rest of the country.
“In all other respects, the rule is effective on August 28,” the agency said in a statement. “The agencies are evaluating these orders and considering next steps in the litigation.”
Known as the Waters of the United States — or what critics call WOTUS for short — the new rules have been controversial from the start.
The Obama administration said it was trying to clear up confusion after an earlier court decision left it unclear how far the federal Clean Water Act stretched. That law gives the EPA power over “navigable” waters and any land where water runs off into those waters. But what that meant has been hotly debated.