Attorneys file arguments over scope of water rule injunction

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys who have been debating state and federal powers regarding small waterways filed written arguments Tuesday over whether a judge's decision to block a new Obama administration water rule applies nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson last week issued a temporary injunction requested by North Dakota and 12 other states to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating some small streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The EPA maintains that injunction applied only to the 13 states and said it began enforcing the rule in all other states on Friday.

The 13 states said in court documents filed Tuesday that it wouldn't make sense to have a different set of rules apply to some states that may share drainages in the same watershed.

"The court's injunction order properly contained no geographical limitations," the state's document says, "and its scope should not now be restricted."

The EPA said its interpretation is correct because many states are not challenging the rule and two states have ruled that the argument belongs in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, not in federal district court. Expanding the injunction goes beyond on the complaints alleged by the 13 states, the EPA said.

"An injunction of nationwide scope is particularly unwarranted because the court has determined only that the plaintiffs here are entitled to preliminary relief" and Erickson made no conclusions "regarding any other party," the government said in its brief.

The 13 states exempted for now are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. They say the regulation is unnecessary and infringes on their sovereignty.

The federal government said the new rule clarifies ambiguity in the law and actually makes it easier for the states to manage some waterways

Erickson said in his ruling last week that the EPA had exceeded its authority in issuing the regulation. He then issued an order giving the parties until the end of the day Tuesday to file arguments on the "breadth of the court's order."


Associated Press reporter James MacPherson in Bismarck contributed to this story.

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