Jessica Karmasek Jul. 22, 2015, 8:50am


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - A bipartisan coalition of states fighting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule extending the EPA’s authority to all bodies of water has two new members.

On Tuesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the charge, announced that Indiana and North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources have signed onto a federal lawsuit challenging the “Waters of the United States” rule.

Under the rule, the agency’s authority extends to almost all bodies of water, no matter the size or frequency.

“This rule is another brazen regulatory overreach on the part of the federal government, and I’m pleased to have the additional support of officials in Indiana and North Carolina in our effort to fight back against it,” Morrisey said in a statement.

The rule was published in the Federal Register June 29, with the agencies set to begin enforcement Aug. 28.

The now 11-state coalition on Tuesday asked a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the federal agencies from beginning to enforce the rule.

The states argue the rule violates the law and would do irreparable damage to the states and their citizens if it were enforced.

To view a copy of the motion, click here.

Within hours of the filing, Chief Judge Lisa G. Wood issued a ruling requiring expedited briefing, with oral arguments on the injunction motion set for Aug. 12.

Morrisey said he welcomed the judge’s “swift action.”

“This will give us the opportunity to make our case for why this rule should not be allowed to go into effect,” the attorney general said. “This rule clearly does not pass legal muster and it should be halted before our citizens are burdened with the hefty price of this regulatory onslaught.”

Morrisey and eight other state attorneys general filed their lawsuit in the Georgia federal court last month. Another group of 12 attorneys general filed a similar lawsuit in a North Dakota federal court.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed his own, separate lawsuit against the EPA over the rule.

After a recent meeting with residents and business owners in Putnam County -- one of West Virginia’s few growing areas -- Morrisey said there is concern that the rule would infringe on their property rights and force them to pay thousands of dollars to do basic work around their homes, farms and workplaces.

“This rule strips states of their legal right to regulate small waterways and will force homeowners, farmers and other entities to navigate a complex federal bureaucracy to obtain costly permits in order to perform everyday tasks like digging ditches, building fences or spraying fertilizers,” the attorney general said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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