Florida Successfully Blocks New Federal Clean Water Regulation

Florida Successfully Blocks New Federal Clean Water RegulationEXPAND
Courtesy of Ivo Kruusamägi via Wikimedia Commons

Notch this one down as a win for, well, um — guess it's hard to exactly tell who this is a win for.

Florida, along with a gaggle of 31 other states, has temporarily fended off the implementation of a new set of government regulations dictating the protection of the country's waterways. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling recently that effectively puts on ice the new and improved Clean Water Act. Florida, as well as the other states, has filed lawsuits challenging the rule on the basis that it redefines certain waterways, shifting the responsibility from the state to federal government. Five federal lawsuits are grinding through the legal system, and this is big-time litigation — which means you should ask yourself whether this is a good use of your taxpayer cash.

Florida and the other states contend that the federal government (here represented by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corp of Engineers), by issuing new regulations for waterways previously controlled by the state, has trampled on the sovereignty of the states. 

"Petitioner states contend that the definitional changes affect an expansion of respondent agencies’ regulatory jurisdiction and dramatically alter the existing balance of federal-state collaboration in restoring and maintaining the integrity of the nation’s waters," explained the Sixth Circuit Appeals court in a recent filing. 

While that issue is being hashed out in the upcoming months (or years, really), Florida and the others included in their lawsuit — Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin — have asked a court to effect a stay on the new regulation. 

This has put the states at odds not only with the federal government and environmental groups but with other states that would like to see the new regulation go into effect — Connecticut, New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. You don't have to be a political pundit to see the red-state/blue-state breakdown of this fight: Right-leaning states (Rick Scott's Florida chief here) are opposed to the regulation; left-hanging states are pro. 

The court, however, determined that due to the seriousness of the issues involved here, there's no reason to rush into anything. "There is no compelling showing that any of the petitioners will suffer immediate irreparable harm — in the form of interference with state sovereignty or in unrecoverable expenditure of resources as they endeavor to comply with the new regime — if a stay is not issued pending determination of this court’s jurisdiction," the court wrote. "But neither is there any indication that the integrity of the nation’s waters will suffer imminent injury if the new scheme is not immediately implemented and enforced."

The court continued: "What is of greater concern to us, in balancing the harms, is the burden — potentially visited nationwide on governmental bodies, state and federal, as well as private parties — and the impact on the public in general, implicated by the Rule’s effective redrawing of jurisdictional lines over certain of the nation’s waters."

In the end, the court agreed with Florida and the other petitioners, granting a stay that will freeze the regulation while the legal issues are fought out. You can read the whole decision at CourtHouseNews. So yeah, awesome Florida, we've been able to really show those federales where they can stick their new, stricter, smarter water regulations. Yeah.  

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