A federal judge paused the Biden administration’s waterway protections in Texas and Idaho as Republicans across the country challenge the environmental regulations as vague and argue the rules would create economic burdens.
The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown of Texas surrounds a rule finalized in December that defines which “waters of the United States” — often called “WOTUS” — qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The decision was signed Sunday and affects only Texas and Idaho.
Roughly half of all U.S. states are taking part in lawsuits challenging the rule. Earlier this month, the U.S. House also voted to overturn the protections under a measure that Biden said he would veto if it reaches his desk.
“The unlawful rule would have saddled Texans across the state with crushing new regulations, slowing our state’s economic development and limiting our job growth,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that it was reviewing the court’s decision and its options. The rule went into effect elsewhere across the country Monday.
The change repeals a Trump-era rule and expands some water pollution protections to thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways.
“Our goal is to protect public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and industries that depend on clean water,” the EPA said in a statement.
Republicans have targeted the regulation in Congress and in court, where at least five federal lawsuits are challenging the EPA rule. The Supreme Court is considering a related case by an Idaho couple who have been blocked for more than 15 years from building a home near a lake after the EPA determined part of the property was a wetlands that could not be disturbed without a permit.
A decision in the case, known as Sackett v. EPA, is expected this year.