Judge declines to block Obama’s water rule

Judge declines to block Obama’s water rule
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A federal judge in West Virginia declined to block implementation of the Obama administration’s controversial water pollution rule, saying the court does not have jurisdiction.

Irene Keeley of the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled late Wednesday in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and refused to block the regulation, two days before it is set to take effect.

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“Based on the prevailing interpretation of the relevant statute, this court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction over this matter,” Keeley wrote in her late Wednesday decision.

Keeley’s decision came in a challenge brought by coal mining company Murray Energy Corp., which says  the rule, known as the Clean Water Rule, violates the Clean Water Act. Murray had asked Keeley to block the rule’s enforcement while its lawsuit is being considered.

More than two dozen states, as well as numerous businesses and interest groups, have also filed lawsuits against the rule, similarly arguing that it violates the plain language of the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court decisions.

The federal courts’ Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided in August that the 10 or so lawsuits should be consolidated and considered by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati. It chose the Cincinnati court at random.

That’s what spurred Keeley to decline Murray’s request to block the rule.

Other federal courts in Georgia and North Dakota may still step in to block the water regulation before Friday, but they could also defer to the Sixth Circuit.

The EPA unveiled the regulation’s final version in May, asserting federal pollution-controlling power over small waterways such as wetlands and streams.

It’s been controversial for years, and Republicans in both chambers of Congress are trying to force the EPA to go back to the drawing board on it.