Texas Keeps Its God-Given Right to Dump Crap in Water (For Now)

The state of Texas has won a small victory in its fight to continue to dump stuff in water in defiance of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations meant to protect the integrity of the nation's water supply. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined with other states' attorneys general to stop the EPA from extending its authority under the Clean Water Act. Largely, the suing states are acting on behalf of agriculture interests.

"The Texas landscape is sprinkled with many giant waste lagoons, literally big pools of water where feces and urine from factory farmed cows is funneled. Sometimes the lagoons overflow and pollute waterways, and so the beef industry has been lobbying hard against the new rule. Or, let us make a pun about it: Upon learning that there will be limits on dumping crap in water, the Texas beef industry has been having a cow. And when an important industry has a cow, the state has a cow too," Amy Martyn wrote for the Observer when Paxton announced the suit in June.

Paxton wants to make sure the beef industry can continue creating and adding to those lagoons. Now, Paxton is getting his wish — at least for now — as the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the regulations, which are known as the “Waters of the U.S." rule. The rule had been effective for six weeks in 37 states, including Texas, that were not covered by a previous stay.

In its decision, the court found that Paxton was likely to prevail on the merits when the full case was argued and questioned the process by which the EPA developed the new rules.

“We are pleased that the 6th Circuit agreed with Texas and the other states that EPA’s new water rule should be stayed. The court’s ruling is good news for property owners whose land would have been subject to extensive new federal regulations due to this overreaching new water rule,” Paxton said. “In effect, the WOTUS rules are simply a blatant power grab by the EPA, and Texas will continue to fight against this ill-conceived and overly broad rule in court.”

The "blatant power grab" requires prospective dumpers to get a permit before dumping crap — literal or otherwise — into streams or wetlands that are near rivers or seasonal waterways regardless of whether those rivers or waterways currently have water flowing through them.. The agency says that scientific research on the topic "unequivocally demonstrates that streams, regardless of their size or frequency of flow, are connected to downstream waters and strongly influence their function."

In the lawsuit, Paxton argues that the permit requirement is too costly and too time consuming for entities that need to do the dumping. The water lawsuit was Texas' 20th against the EPA since President Obama took office in 2009. The state has since sued the EPA again for the agency's intended extension of the Clean Air Act.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young