Snell & Wilmer
Legal Alert
spacer15spacer8
September 1, 2015
Clean Water Rule Halted in Arizona and 12 Other States
by Patrick J. Paul and Christopher P. Colyer
On August 27, the day before it was set to become final, a federal district court in North Dakota halted implementation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ “Waters of The United States” rule. North Dakota v. U.S. E.P.A., Civ. No. 3:15-cv-59.
Arizona and 12 other states sued to block the expansion of federal water protections under this proposed rule. Homebuilders and others in the construction industry expressed concern that the proposed rule was too expansive and could be used to halt or delay construction and development projects.
Judge Ralph Erickson issued a preliminary injunction against implementation of the rule in favor of the 13 plaintiff states finding, in part, that it suffered a fatal defect similar to one identified in the last seminal Supreme Court case on the issue, Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006); namely, allowing regulation of waters that bear no effect on the chemical, physical and biological integrity of any navigable-in-fact water. Judge Erickson also noted that the rule arbitrarily establishes distances from a navigable water that are subject to regulation and was not a “logical outgrowth” of the proposed rule.
Frustrated by a lack of access to a complete administrative record, Judge Erickson nevertheless concluded that what had been made available revealed “a process that is inexplicable, arbitrary, and devoid of a reason to process.”
The Arizona Homebuilders Association hailed the ruling as did Senator John McCain, who noted that he continued “to hear from a number of Arizona farmers, ranchers, and homebuilders who are alarmed that the rule will put their jobs under the thumb of the EPA.”
Arizona has an abundance of dry washes and other ephemeral streams that only flow following precipitation which would face a new standard under the final rule. According to the EPA, 94 percent of Arizona’s streams are ephemeral.
In an August 28 statement, the EPA acknowledged the Court Order and—concurrent with the new rule becoming effective in 37 other states—noted that it would continue to implement the prior rule in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. In all other respects, the new rule became effective on August 28, leaving businesses with a multi-state presence a regulatory quagmire in which a nationwide rule is not uniformly enforced.
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are considering next steps in the litigation, not only in North Dakota, but in many other jurisdictions. In fact, litigation on the rule continues in earnest with the Sixth Circuit set to hear all petitions for review filed under Section 509(b) of the Clean Water Act.

Twitter

LinkedIn

 
 

©2015 Snell & Wilmer. All rights reserved. The purpose of this legal alert is to provide readers with information on current topics of general interest and nothing herein shall be construed to create, offer or memorialize the existence of an attorney-client relationship. The content should not be considered legal advice or opinion, because it may not apply to the specific facts of a particular matter. Please contact a Snell & Wilmer attorney with any questions.

One Arizona Center | 400 East Van Buren Street | Suite 1900 | Phoenix, AZ 85004
The material in this legal alert may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the written permission of Snell & Wilmer.