On March 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit approved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request to stay a decision on whether the agency must provide numeric nutrient criteria for Mississippi River Basin states. In a previous 2013 U.S. District Court ruling, EPA was given until March 19 to determine whether states needed numeric criteria. The court now will stay the decision while it considers the agency’s reasoning.

The case originally was based on a 2012 lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Gulf Restoration Network. The lawsuit was filed after a 2008 petition calling for quantitative water quality standards on Mississippi River Basin waters with excess nutrients. According to the groups, EPA is required by the Clean Water Act to impose standards on states failing to protect water quality. In the lawsuit, groups claim that EPA did not properly follow the Administrative Procedure Act when it denied the petition because it did not issue a necessity determination. Wastewater utilities and states oppose the lawsuit and support continued collaborative efforts between EPA and the states.