Following a federal court ruling in Arizona vacating the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers will review permits and projects nationwide under the pre-2015 rules.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez wrote that Trump officials committed serious errors while writing the NWPR, and leaving it in place could lead to “serious environmental harm.”
“In light of this order, the agencies have halted implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and are interpreting ‘waters of the United States’ consistent with the pre-2015 regulatory regime until further notice,” the two agencies said in a statement.
The agencies continue to review the order and are considering next steps while working to move forward with the rulemakings announced on June 9.
“The agencies remain committed to crafting a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ that is informed by diverse perspectives and based on an inclusive foundation,” according to the statement.
Other parties to the Arizona litigation may appeal or challenge the government’s interpretation of the ruling.
EPA and the Army Corps recently held hearings and sought public comment on a new definition of waters of the U.S., which determines how many and what kind of water features can be regulated, but the NWPR remained in effect.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement his organization was “extremely disappointed” in the court’s decision.
“Farmers finally had environmentally responsible regulations that brought clarity to clean water efforts,” he said. “This ruling casts uncertainty over farmers and ranchers across the country and threatens the progress they’ve made to responsibly manage water and natural resources.”
Duvall noted three courts previously refused to dismantle the NWPR, which scaled back federal protections for streams, marshes and wetlands.