UPDATED: N.C. DENR asks AG Roy Cooper to oppose Obama WOTUS rules; Federal judge blocks rules

UPDATE: A federal judge in North Dakota has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of the WOTUS rules. This ruling follows a denial of the same type of injunction in Georgia where N.C. DENR had joined in the request. Developing …

RALEIGH – N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart sent a letter to N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper requesting his office support the agency’s challenge of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The future of North Carolina’s waters must continue to stay in North Carolina’s hands and not in Washington D.C.,” van der Vaart states in the letter. “Our state has a much better record of protecting and cleaning our waters than the federal government.”

The EPA published a rule June 29 that redefines WOTUS. The rule, which becomes effective Aug. 28, redefines what ditches, drainageways, wetlands, streams and other features are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. The redefinition will result in a significant expansion of federal authority and control over local water and land use management, and is expected to have the greatest impact in North Carolina on land east of Interstate 95.

Van der Vaart sent a letter to Attorney General Roy Cooper requesting that he file friend of the court briefs in support of DENR and 10 other states in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgia seeking an injunction to prevent the implementation of the WOTUS rules. Van der Vaart said that his request was “to protect the interests of North Carolina’s farmers and property owners.”

The WOTUS rules would negatively affect farmland in Eastern North Carolina, according to van der Vaart. “Large swaths of farmland could be swept into federal jurisdiction,” van der Vaart wrote. “Many more landscape features will become federally regulated under the proposed rule, resulting in reduced land values, reductions in productive land and increased costs for land use.”

Farmers and rural advocates nationwide have loudly opposed the rules, most notably through the U.S. Farm Bureau’s “Ditch the Rule” campaign. The EPA has responded with a public relations campaign of its own entitled “Ditch the Myth,” which aims to convince Americans that federal intervention is needed to protect the nation’s waterways and that the rule is not the overreach many in the agricultural community worry it is.

The regulations have become political as well. The N.C. Republican Party was quick to join DENR’s call for Cooper, who is the presumed 2016 challenger to Gov. Pat McCrory, to oppose the Obama administration.

“These new regulations have nothing to do with improving our state’s water quality and everything to do with expanding the federal government’s authority in our lives,” said Todd Poole, executive director of the N.C. GOP. “Especially after the EPA’s disastrous handling of the Colorado mine spill, we hope Roy Cooper decides to stand up for North Carolina rather than cede control of our state’s water supply to the EPA.”