Court orders Trump administration to enforce chemical safety rule

Planning Commission  Flickr

A federal judge in SC on Thursday blocked the Trump administration from delaying enforcement of a controversial Obama-era definition of what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), issuing an injunction making the rule law in 26 states where the 2015 Clean Water Rule (CWR) has not already been stayed.

A federal appeals court on Friday ordered the Trump administration to immediately implement an Obama-era chemical safety rule introduced in response to a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas that killed 15 people.

"We would like to keep the clean water rule", Ward said.

Just when farmers thought they had some time for the Trump Administration to save the day and fix the Obama-written Waters of the USA rule, a SC judge comes in and said the government didn't follow the proper administrative rules. Today's decision follows a legal challenge filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of SC.

Ruling in the SELC's case, Judge David Norton found that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act in proposing and finalizing the rule. "The definition of 'waters of the United States" is drastically different under these two regulations".

More litigation ensued, resulting in a trip to the Supreme Court to resolve where legal challenges to the WOTUS rule should be filed, and an injunction against the WOTUS rule's enforcement in 24 states which had sought to challenge the rule.

The court held that the agencies refusal to allow meaningful public comment doomed the rule, stating that "An illusory opportunity to comment is no opportunity at all". "The court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements".


"Even were the court to agree for purposes of argument that the cause of the West, Texas, disaster being arson is relevant to some of the accident prevention provisions of the chemical disaster rule, it is irrelevant to the emergency-response and information-sharing provisions, including those that have indisputably been delayed from the original March 14, 2018, effective date", the court stated.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "While work continues to develop a common-sense and lawful solution, we urge the administration to immediately take action in the courts to limit the scope of this injunction to SC".

Duvall urged the administration to immediately take action to limit the scope of the ruling to SC while working to repeal the 2015 rule.

He said the ruling "creates enormous regulatory uncertainty and risk for farmers, ranchers and others in the 26 states that are not already protected from the unlawful 2015 rule by previous court decisions".

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also issued a statement Thursday afternoon warning that the court's ruling means WOTUS remains a threat for farmers and ranchers.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and a broad coalition of business organizations have notified the federal district court in SC they will appeal that court's ruling. A Kentucky Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the department is reviewing the opinion, and will continue to monitor the courts on this issue.

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