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Charleston judge rules against Trump order reducing protected waterways

President Trump (The Kremlin, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Today, a judge in Charleston blocked a rule by President Donald Trump's administration that relaxes regulations on where businesses and farmers can legally pollute natural waterways.

In February, the Environmental Protection Agency, under Trump's authority, suspended President Barack Obama’s Clean Water Rule to allow pollutants and runoff to be dumped into non-navigable waterways and certain wetlands, according to the court document.

Judge David Norton ruled that the Trump administration violated the law by not soliciting public comment before suspending the types of waterways that fell under federal protection.

“As administrations change, so do regulatory priorities,” Norton wrote in his conclusion. “But the requirements of the APA (Administrative Procedure Act) remain the same.”

Norton’s decision was a win for plaintiffs including South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Charleston Waterkeeper, American Rivers, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Rappahannock, North Carolina, Coastal Federal and North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

The lawsuit was filed against Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency itself, R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The environmental groups asked for a nationwide suspension of the Trump-era rule, and Judge Norton agreed.

He wrote that the plaintiffs successfully argued that, “The Suspension Rule will affect downstream waters not just in South Carolina or even within the Fourth Circuit but throughout the United States.”

The ruling is likely to be appealed.

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