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Trump Water Rule Halted in Colo., Can Take Effect Elsewhere (1)

June 19, 2020, 9:30 PMUpdated: June 20, 2020, 12:22 AM

The Trump administration’s adoption of narrower protections for wetlands and waterways can take effect almost everywhere in the nation, except Colorado, while courts review whether the move was legal.

A federal Judge in California on Friday rejected a request for a nationwide injunction of the rule. Hours later, a federal Judge in Colorado agreed to freeze the federal rule within that state.

The California court’s decision is a major blow to environmentalists and states that had hoped to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule across the country before it takes effect Monday. Colorado, meanwhile, is celebrating its success in blocking the rule in the Centennial State.

A coalition of liberal states and cities challenged the joint rule from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, saying the agencies violated multiple federal laws. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard a marathon session of arguments June 18.

‘Not Made a Sufficient Showing’

The court’s role is to decide whether the Trump administration followed the Administrative Procedure Act in crafting the rule, Judge Richard Seeborg wrote.

“In that context, plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing to support an injunction or an order delaying the effective date of the new rule,” he concluded, adding that “the result might be different” if he considered whether the regulation “represents wise environmental policy or the best approach to protecting water resources.”

Colorado had filed its own legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Judge William J. Martinez said some of the state’s arguments were “unusual and partly self-contradictory,” but concluded that the state met the bar for a preliminary injunction, which will put the regulation on hold in that state while the litigation plays out.

Other lawsuits attacking the regulation are pending in district courts across the country, where litigants are pursuing similar efforts to block the measure.

The Trump rule defines which types of wetlands and waterways are subject to federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. The interpretation replaces the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and a set of Reagan-era regulations.

Conservative states, agriculture groups, and various industries opposed the Obama rule and praised the Trump administration for narrowing the definition for “waters of the U.S.,” or WOTUS, subject to the Clean Water Act.

The cases are California v. Wheeler, N.D. Cal., No. 3:20-cv-03005, 6/19/20 and Colorado v. EPA, D. Colo., No. 1:20-cv-01461, 6/19/20.

(Adds news on Colorado litigation throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at