Science and Tech


Judge halts rule that would protect small waterways in 24 states

At issue are rules that define waterways for protection from pollution and dumping under the Clean Water Act.
A wetland in North Dakota
Posted at 11:08 PM, Apr 12, 2023

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked federal rules that would protect streams and waterways in 24 states under the Clean Water Act.

U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland in North Dakota paused regulations that would have protected certain small waterways from pollution and dumping, as defined in the Clean Water Act.

A coalition of 24 states, most of them led by Republicans, filed a lawsuit against the new rules, saying their implementation would be "overreaching" and would unfairly shift more responsibility onto farmers and ranchers.

The development in court comes less than a week after President Joe Biden vetoed a bill that would have exempted the small waterways in question from protection under the Clean Water Act. 

Removing the act's protection, President Biden said at the time, "would threaten economic growth, including for agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities," and "negatively affect tens of millions of United States households that depend on healthy wetlands and streams."

Water from the Colorado River diverted through the Central Arizona Project fills an irrigation canal.

Tribe, US officials reach deal to save Colorado River water

The deal is part of a broader effort to get states that rely on the river to substantially lessen their water use amid an ongoing drought.


Congress and the President have sparred over the reach of the Clean Water Act for years. President Obama tried to expand protections from pollution in 2015. In 2019, the Trump administration narrowed their scope.

And last year the Supreme Court said it would weigh a case by a couple who wants to build a home in Idaho, which the EPA has frozen because it would affect wetlands that are currently protected by the Clean Water Act.