Tennessee AG fighting feds on control of water

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III
Tenn. AG Herbert H. Slatery III

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced on July 23 that Tennessee has joined Ohio and Michigan in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The lawsuit asks the court to strike down a new rule, known as the “waters of the United States” rule, that expands the federal government’s regulatory authority over local bodies of water, lands, and farms.

Under the Clean Water Act, Congress established federal regulatory control over “navigable waters,” defined by that statute as “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.”

In a press release, Slatery said the rules initiated by the U.S. Corps and EPA no longer limit their authority to “navigable” waters and adjoining waters or wetlands. Instead, federal authority would include nearly every conceivable water tributary in the country, including those that in no way constitute navigable, potentially navigable, or interstate waters — even in various instances reaching land that is typically dry.

“This rule would allow the federal government to claim authority over areas clearly left to the supervision and care of the states,” he said. “There is little doubt that this rule would negatively impact the citizens of Tenn-essee, subjecting homeowners, farmers, and businesses to costly regulations that in many cases lack basic common sense.”

This broad definition of “waters of the United States” could be used by the federal government to penalize landowners improperly, his press release noted. To comply with regulations, property owners would be required to obtain costly permits not necessary under the current structure.
The states are asking the court to vacate the rule, enjoin the defendants from seeking to claim jurisdiction under the rule, and remand the matter so the agencies can propose new rules consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Clean Water Act. The case is filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

See the Attorney General’s website at attorneygeneral.tn.gov.