By Justin Walker
Communications Specialist

A federal judge in Texas blocked implementation of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule yesterday for Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The ruling came from Judge George Hanks Jr. of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas during a hearing on a request to freeze WOTUS.

“We are very pleased with the decision to block WOTUS,” Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Director of Government Affairs Regan Beck said. “WOTUS creates unnecessary fears and concerns for landowners. It’s important for poorly drafted regulations that are detrimental to farmers and ranchers, such as WOTUS, be overturned.”

The decision came three weeks after a federal judge in South Carolina issued an injunction on the delayed implementation of WOTUS.

After the South Carolina ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his Louisiana and Mississippi counterparts requested their own injunction.

“(The) district court ruling is a win for property owners in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, sparing them from the unlawful and impractical WOTUS rule that would allow EPA regulation of ponds, streams and puddles on private land,” Paxton said. “By restoring principles of federalism to this area of law, the ruling is an even bigger win for the Constitution and the fundamental liberties it protects.”

The ruling only applies to the three states comprising the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. WOTUS, a rule under the Clean Water Act, is still in effect for 23 other states, but a similar freeze request is pending in a district court in Ohio.

Farm Bureau Senior Director of Regulatory Relations Don Parrish hails the decision as a victory. He hopes a federal judge, either in Texas or elsewhere, issues a nationwide stay of the rule.

“Judges will eventually stop this rule altogether,” Parrish said.

TFB shares those sentiments, Beck said.

“Ultimately, we want to see WOTUS replaced with a rule that is not arbitrary and not harmful to our farming and ranching operations,” Beck said.

The Trump administration continues to work to repeal and replace WOTUS with a new regulation. A proposal is currently under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that would significantly decrease the number of waterways and wetlands the Clean Water Act protects.