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California v. Wheeler

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20150
Nos. 20-cv-03005-RS, (N.D. Cal., 06/19/2020) (Seeborg, J.)

A district court denied a motion for preliminary relief in a challenge to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which substantially narrows the definition of "waters of the United States" that are subject to federal regulation under the CWA. California argued that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers lacked an adequate scientific basis for dramatically changing their policy. The court found the agencies could reasonably conclude they had no statutory duty to extend federal regulation to the broadest extent permissible under the Commerce Clause, in the name of providing all the water quality benefits that science suggested might be achievable, and thus held that their discounting evidence of possible benefits was not plainly arbitrary or capricious. The state also argued the rule was contrary to law because it excluded from its scope interstate waters that did not otherwise qualify for protection. The court found that the CWA did not use "interstate" in its definition of "navigable waters" or to describe "waters of the United States," and thus concluded that California failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of this claim. It therefore denied the state's motion to preliminarily enjoin the rule.