In a significant victory for the agricultural and business sectors on Friday, a federal appellate court suspended nationwide implementation of the “Waters of the United States” rule until further order of the court. Since the EPA implemented the rule back in August, several district courts have stopped its implementation in parts of the country. Friday’s court ruling nullifies enforcement of the regulation nationwide. “This is a huge victory for farmers,” said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, SC. “The court rightfully stopped implementation of this massive federal land grab and confusion across the country until the numerous lawsuits against it can be resolved.”
Chief Environmental Counsel with the NPPC, Michael Fromica, said part of the court’s decision was based on the likelihood that the rule will eventually be struck down completely, “The court felt that in the end the EPA rule did not comply with what the US Supreme Court has previously ruled.” He added, in reaching its decision, the court found that there’s a substantial likelihood that EPA’s WOTUS rule fails to comply with the Supreme Court’s instructions in previous Clean Water Act cases and that the agency’s actions in the rulemaking process, to which NPPC objected at the outset, are “suspect.”
(Click here to read the court’s decision.)
The court also ruled that, not only was the rule itself based on bad science, the process used to establish the rule was also corrupt. “The WOTUS rule is vague and fails to let regulated parties know when their conduct violates the law,” Prestage said. “We all want clean water, but this regulation is just big land grab that promotes growth in the size of government and allows activists to extort and micromanage all kinds of farming and business activities.”
“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,” stated Bob Stallman, President of AFBF. Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers said, “Clean water is important to us all. NCGA is committed to working with these agencies and other stakeholders to protect America’s water resources.”
The rule, which took effect August 28, was proposed in April 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify the agencies’ authority under the Clean Water Act over various waters. That jurisdiction – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – had included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The WOTUS regulation broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also encompasses lands adjacent to such waters.