Lawsuits pour in as ink dries on Obama rule

By Annie Snider | 06/29/2015 04:14 PM EDT

This story was updated at 4:46 p.m. EDT.

At least 18 state attorneys general have joined lawsuits filed today against the Obama administration, aiming to block a controversial new water rule that would expand the number of streams and wetlands that receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act.

The Waters of the U.S. rule was officially finalized today when it ran in the Federal Register, opening the floodgates for legal challenges. The rule is fiercely opposed by industries ranging from farming to oil and gas development to homebuilding.


The attorneys general of 12 states joined Nebraska’s Doug Peterson in a suit in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota.

Their complaint contends the water rule violates provisions of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Constitution.

"Farmers, ranchers, and landowners will find it difficult to operate without added permits and additional obstacles," Peterson said in a statement.

The other states signed onto that lawsuit are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette also filed a suit this afternoon in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, arguing that the rule’s definition of tributary would "include almost every conceivable water tributary in the country," according to a press release.

Meanwhile, the attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi filed what appears to be the first suit challenging the rule. They argue that the final version of the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and infringes on states’ 10th Amendment sovereignty rights.

"The Final Rule is an unconstitutional and impermissible expansion of federal power over the states and their citizens and property owners," the three states’ attorneys general wrote in their brief.

"Whereas Congress defined the limits of its commerce power through the Clean Water Act to protect the quality of American waters, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, through the Final Rule, are attempting to expand their authority to regulate water and land use by the states and their citizens."

That lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, as well as in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The three Southern attorneys general wrote the "dual filing" was made "out of an abundance of caution" since judicial jurisdiction could be in dispute in this case.

As the legal challenges begin, critics of the water rule are also fighting it on Capitol Hill. The Senate is expected to take up legislation to kill the rule, S. 1140, this summer. The House has already approved similar legislation.

Policy riders blocking funding for the rule’s implementation have also made their way into both the House’s and Senate’s fiscal 2016 funding bills for U.S. EPA.

Click here for the 13-state lawsuit.

Click here for the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi lawsuit.

Click here for the Ohio and Michigan suit.