Heeding legislator advice, AG joins lawsuit against EPA

(Note: In separate letters, a group of 63 state legislators and a coalition of business organizations had urged the AG to join the lawsuit. Previous posts HERE and HERE.)

News release from Tennessee Attorney General’s Office:
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the state of Tennessee has joined the states of Ohio and Michigan in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lawsuit asks the court to strike down a new rule, known as the “waters of the United States” rule, that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory authority over local bodies of water, lands, and farms.

Under the Clean Water Act, Congress established federal regulatory control over “navigable waters,” defined by that statute as “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” However, the rules initiated by the U.S. Corps and EPA no longer limit their authority to navigable waters and adjoining waters or wetlands. Instead, federal authority would include nearly every conceivable water tributary in the country including those that in no way constitute navigable, potentially navigable, or interstate waters – even in various instances reaching land that is typically dry.

“This rule would allow the federal government to claim authority over areas clearly left to the supervision and care of the states,” said Attorney General Slatery. “There is little doubt that this rule would negatively impact the citizens of Tennessee, subjecting homeowners, farmers, and businesses to costly regulations that in many cases lack basic common sense.”

This overly-broad definition of “waters of the United States” could be used by the federal government to penalize landowners improperly. To comply with regulations, property owners would be required to obtain costly permits not necessary under the current structure.

The states are asking the court to vacate the rule, enjoin the defendants from seeking to claim jurisdiction under the rule, and remand the matter so the agencies can propose new rules which are consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Clean Water Act.

The case is filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.