Federal judge grants preliminary injunction.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

April 13, 2023

2 Min Read
water way

A U.S. District Court in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction effectively overturning the Biden administration’s Waters of the United States rule in 24 states. In his April 12 ruling, Judge Daniel L. Hovland agreed with those states’ argument that WOTUS poses a threat to their sovereign rights and amounts to irreparable harm. He added that the states would expend unrecoverable resources complying with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.

“The EPA argues the public will benefit from the added clarity that the rule provides,” Hovland said. “Common sense would lead any reasonable person to reach a far different conclusion. The volume of litigation that has generated from the Clean Water Act over the last decade from federal district courts, federal courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States reveals nothing but chaos and uncertainty.”

Hovland added that there is no urgency to implement WOTUS because a Supreme Court decision in the Sackett case is expected by June and will likely address many of the unresolved legal issues brought up in the lawsuit.

The preliminary injunction means WOTUS is no longer the law of the land in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said the decision was welcome news for his state’s agriculture industry.

“Iowa farmers must be able to freely operate using modern farming practices and we do not need this unworkable bureaucratic decree hindering our efforts to accelerate the adoption of proven conservation and water quality practices,” Naig said.

previous federal court ruling granted an injunction preventing WOTUS from going into effect in Idaho and Texas. However, a federal judge in Kentucky denied that state’s request to issue a similar injunction.

Eighteen trade organizations signed onto the case as intervenor plaintiffs, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. They had hoped the court might issue a nationwide WOTUS injunction. Judge Hovland said that request made little sense because more than 20 states have not challenged the rule, and the Supreme Court has yet to rule if EPA has the authority to impose WOTUS.

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall issued a statement shortly after the ruling calling on the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider the rule now that it has been put on hold in more than half the states.

“Here’s the bottom line: clean water is important to all of us and farmers and ranchers certainly share the goal of caring for our natural resources,” Duvall said. “We depend on them for our livelihoods – all we’re asking for is a sensible rule that farmers can interpret without hiring a team of lawyers.”

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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