BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday blocked an Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some smaller waterways just hours before it was to take effect.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo issued a temporary injunction against the rule that would have given the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers authority over some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The rule was scheduled to take effect Friday.
“The risk of irreparable harm to the states is both imminent and likely,” Erickson said in granting the request of 13 states to temporarily stop the rule from taking effect. The judge said the rule would require “jurisdictional studies” of every proposed natural gas, oil or water pipeline project in North Dakota.
The 13 states led by North Dakota asked Erickson to suspend guidelines that they say are unnecessary and infringe on state sovereignty. The federal government says the new rule clarifies the law and makes it easier for the states to manage some waterways. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the injunction applied to states other than the 13 that requested it.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who filed the request, said he was pleased by the ruling.
The EPA did not immediately comment.
The agriculture industry has been especially concerned about the regulation, saying it could apply to drainage ditches on farmland. The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers said the only ditches that would be covered under the rule are those that look, act and function like tributaries and carry pollution downstream.
Other states involved in the lawsuit are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming.