Koster sues EPA over new “waters” rule

Colin Reischmann / The Missouri Times / June 29, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Attorney General Chris Koster has waded into a debate about the federal definition of “waterways” and he isn’t the only Missourian weighing in.

Koster has signed Missouri onto a lawsuit with 12 other states against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers over the agencies’ rule defining “waters of the United States.” Koster’s office says the new rule expands the scope of clean water regulations to lands without much water at all, and increases the federal government’s authority to “control land use in Missouri.”

“The EPA and the Army Corps have exceeded their legal authority in defining what constitutes U.S. waterways,” Koster said in a statement.  “If this change becomes law, thousands of acres of privately owned land in Missouri will suddenly be subject to federal water regulation.  Missouri farmers will be particularly harmed by the federal government’s restrictions on how their land can be used.”

Koster says the agencies’ official definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) extends their authority to include “ponds, streams that flow only briefly during or after rainstorms, and channels that are usually dry.” The definition also expands to floodpains, even if the plains are dry 99 years out of 100, Koster says.

The lawsuit is filed in United States District Court for the District of North Dakota and “seeks an order declaring the rule is unlawful and prohibiting the agencies from implementing it.” The rule takes effect in 60 days with no such court order.

Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri farm Bureau, publicly applauded Koster’s suit.

“We applaud Attorney General Koster for filing this lawsuit against EPA and hope the courts will act quickly to halt implementation of the WOTUS rule as the issue works its way through the legal system.  The EPA is guilty of a massive overreach, and we fully expect the courts will once again instruct the EPA to follow the intent of Congress.”

Congressman Jason Smith, R-MO8, has also focused his attention on the WOTUS issue. Last April, Smith added language to HR 2028 to keep the EPA from using any funds to implement the new rule. The bill passed the House, along with another piece of legislation in May with a similar prohibition on the rule.

“The administration is telling us that this rule won’t affect property owners and farmers, and that’s an absolute lie,” Smith said in a statement. “The Obama administration has misled the American people too many times to get the benefit of the doubt on something this important.”