Indiana became the latest state Monday to join a lawsuit challenging an Obama administration rule that gives federal agencies authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced the decision to join the multistate action that challenges as unconstitutional the Environmental Protection Agency's redefinition of the state's streams, creeks, ponds and wetlands as the "waters of the United States."
Small bodies of water have always been under state jurisdiction. Zoeller said the rule change placing them under federal authority could force agricultural operations that discharge any water or wastewater to obtain expensive federal permits or face stiff civil penalties over the runoff. More than 20 states are involved in the suit.
"Agriculture is vitally important to Indiana's economy, and this EPA rule would be needlessly burdensome to farmers, homeowners and businesses and intrude upon the states' longstanding authority to regulate small waterways within its own borders," Zoeller said in a statement.
He called the rule an example of EPA overreach into state rights that he said "has become all too frequent."
The rule is a response to calls from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress for the EPA to clarify which smaller waterways are protected. It takes effect Aug. 28.
According to the EPA, the waters affected would be only those with a "direct and significant" connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. It says the aim is to protect the waters from pollution and development and to safeguard drinking water.