Energy & Environment

Two dozen Republican-led states sue EPA over water protection rule

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
The Associated Press

A group of 24 Republican-led states is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try to knock down a rule governing which waters get federal protections. 

Late last year, the Biden administration issued a new rule about how the federal government determines which types of wetlands and streams can get its protections from pollution. 

The protections would require businesses to obtain a permit for certain activities, such as construction, that could damage water quality.

The Biden rule was seen as a middle ground between Obama- and Trump-era rules that preceded it.

Announcing their new lawsuit on Wednesday, the Republican attorneys general argued that the rule issues protections too liberally, and that it could end up harming ranchers, farmers, miners, homebuilders and other landowners.

“You cannot regulate a puddle as you do a river and doing so will never give us cleaner water,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said in a statement. 

“This rule would harm jobs and economic growth by taking jurisdiction from states and asserting federal authority over nearly any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow only once every 100 years,” he added. 

When it announced the rule, Biden administration officials argued that it struck an appropriate balance. 

“It is focused on balancing our essential job at the EPA to protect our nation’s water resources but to do it in a way that also provides clarity to all water users,” Radhika Fox, the EPA’s top water official, told The Hill at the time. 

The rule and subsequent lawsuit are also coming as the Supreme Court is poised to soon issue its own opinion on the scope of the country’s water regulations. It heard a case in October that centered around what types of wetlands can be considered “adjacent” to other regulated bodies of water and thus deserving of protections. 

The states that signed onto Thursday’s lawsuit are West Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Tags Joe Biden Patrick Morrisey

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