Duplicative Water-Rights Case Set to Simmer


     (CN) — Putting a duplicative water-rights challenge on the back burner, the 11th Circuit said going forward would be a “colossal waste of judicial resources.”
     “If there were an exhibition hall for prudential restraint on the exercise of judicial authority, this case could be an exemplar in the duplicative litigation wing,” the unsigned Aug. 16 order by a three-judge panel says.
     Attorneys general from 31 states brought the case at hand against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers in connection to the 2015 promulgation of the Clean Water Rule.
     The rule defines “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, but states challenging the rule say it asserts federal jurisdiction over streams, wetlands and other water bodies previously under their jurisdiction.
     While fighting unsuccessfully in Georgia for a federal injunction against the rule, the same plaintiffs petitioned the 11th Circuit for relief.
     That petition was transferred to the Sixth Circuit, however, and the Cincinnati-based federal appeals court issued a stay in October 2015.
     With the Sixth Circuit now focusing on the merits of that challenge, the 11th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the first case is moot.
     “The case before us and the case before the Sixth Circuit involve the same parties on each side, the same jurisdictional and merits issues, and the same requested relief,” the order out of Atlanta states.
     “It would be a colossal waste of judicial resources for both this Court and the Sixth Circuit to undertake to decide the same issues about the same rule presented by the same parties.”
     The 11th Circuit notes that the Sixth Circuit panel is already “significantly farther along the decisional path than we are.”
     “It has already decided the district court versus court of appeals jurisdictional issue, it has denied rehearing en banc of that decision, it has set a briefing schedule on the merits issues, and it is in the process of winnowing down the massive administrative record to its most relevant parts,” the order says. “There is no good reason not to stay our hand in the present case until the Sixth Circuit decides the case before it.”
     The EPA cited the need for clean drinking water and clean water as an economic driver as the impetus for its new rule, and Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 in which justices disagreed about which waters were covered by the Act.
     

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