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Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. Wheeler

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20197
Nos. C15-1342-JCC, (W.D. Wash., 11/26/2018) (Coughenour, J.)

A district court vacated nationwide the Applicability Date Rule, which suspended the effect of the Clean Water Rule until February 2020 and required agencies in the interim to apply the pre-Clean Water Rule definition of "waters of the United States." Environmental groups argued that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the APA by failing to provide a substantively sufficient notice-and-comment period prior to promulgating the Applicability Date Rule. The agencies argued they appropriately considered comments that were relevant to how to proceed for the next two years while litigation challenging the Clean Water Rule was ongoing, and deferred more complex issues for a separate rulemaking proceeding. But the court found that the agencies refused to consider comments on the merits of the Clean Water Rule, the pre-Clean Water Rule definition sought to be reinstated, or the scope of a possible future definition of "waters of the United States," all of which were relevant and important and could not be deferred until a later rulemaking. The court therefore vacated the Applicability Date Rule nationwide.