HOUSTON – A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has exempted Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana from implementing the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), Politico reports. The addition of these three states means more than half of the United States doesn’t have to implement the regulation, which would define what types of water are subject to protection under the Clean Water Act.
The 2015 WOTUS regulations were met with opposition from the business and agriculture industries, which felt that the regulations went too far and would drastically increase cost of permitting and compliance. For instance, under this rule, any convenience store near or touching a protected water would face additional permitting and Clean Water Act requirements.
Judge George Hanks Jr. hasn’t filed a written order to the court. As of press time, it also was not clear whether the judge would approve a request to expand the injunction nationwide. An industry group headed by the American Farm Bureau Federation has been pushing for a national injunction to the water rule. The group selected the Southern District of Texas to fight its first battle after the January U.S. Supreme Court ruling that district courts must first hear any challenges to the regulation.
An order is expected to be issued by Hanks soon. In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted its nationwide stay of the WOTUS rule. The Trump administration likely will put out its final rule to repeal WOTUS before the end of 2018, and the proposed replacement rule should be released soon.