Court Ruling Suspends WOTUS

Cindy ZimmermanAFBF, EPA, Government, NCGA

gavelA new ruling issued today by a federal appeals court places a nationwide stay on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule, better known as Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).

The court agreed with petitioners that the treatment in the rule of tributaries, “adjacent waters,” and waters having a “significant nexus” to navigable waters is at odds with a previous Supreme Court ruling and that “it is far from clear that the new Rule’s distance limitations are harmonious with the instruction.”

In addition, the ruling called EPA’s rulemaking process “facially suspect” because it did not include any proposed distance limitations in its use of terms like “adjacent waters” and significant nexus.”

Agricultural organizations are supporting the ruling.“The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased the Sixth Circuit recognizes that this rule has serious flaws and cannot go forward until the courts have had an opportunity to understand its effect on farmers, ranchers and landowners of all kinds,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman in a statement. “The judges expressed deep concerns over the basic legality of this rule. We’re not in the least surprised: This is the worst EPA order we have seen since the agency was established more than 40 years ago. The court clearly understood our arguments.”

However, Stallman and others note that Congress should pay heed to the court ruling and ditch the rule permanently so it can be re-crafted. “We are confident that the courts will eventually strike down EPA’s WOTUS rule altogether,” said National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling. “But court battles take months, if not years – and come at a considerable cost. There has to be a better way for us to work together on a rule that is successful and lawful. That’s why we are asking the Senate to step up and pass S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. This law would stop WOTUS and give the EPA, the Army Corps, farmers, and other stakeholders the chance to work together on a better rule that we can all support.”

Bill co-sponsor Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) says she will continue to fight to see the rule scrapped. “The Sixth Circuit’s nationwide ‘stay’ is a critical step toward eliminating this rule altogether,” said Fischer. “I will continue to hold the EPA accountable and support legislation that ensures the citizens of Nebraska, not bureaucrats in Washington, remain in control of our state’s water resources.”