A district court judge in South Carolina overturned the Trump Administration’s attempt to delay implementation of the “Waters of the U.S. Rule,” or WOTUS. TheHill.com says the Obama-era rule is immediately law in 26 states as the judge’s ruling put an exemption on the administration’s suspension rule. The U.S. District Court in South Carolina decided the Environmental Protection Agency did not follow rule-making procedures in suspending WOTUS implementation. The judge says EPA did not give an adequate public notice and comment period as stipulated by the Administrative Procedures Act.
The court wrote in its decision that, “As administrations change, so do their priorities. But the requirements of the APA remain the same. The Court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements in implementing the suspension rule.” A federal judge had previously granted the other 24 states the ability to get out of WOTUS regulations. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club hailed the decision as a victory for communities across the country. The EPA says it will look at the order before determining its next steps.
Indiana Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) released the following statement after the ruling:
“I am disappointed that after years of delay, the onerous Obama-era WOTUS rule is now back in effect in half of the country. This disastrous rule is the poster child for government overreach, as it gives unelected bureaucrats at the EPA the power to broadly interpret what is a navigable waterway.
“This rule has hurt our economy and encroached on the rights of farmers and landowners who deserve freedom from overbearing federal regulations. As the Senate and House come together in a conference committee to hash out a final version of the 2018 Farm Bill, I urge my colleagues to include my amendment to permanently repeal WOTUS.”
Last month the House passed its version of the farm bill, which included the Banks amendment to permanently repeal WOTUS. The Senate version did not include the Banks amendment.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall responded on Thursday saying, “To avoid widespread uncertainty and potential enforcement against ordinary farming activities in already uncertain times, we call on the administration to take steps to limit the impact of this dangerous court decision. The U.S. District Court in South Carolina was wrong to invade the agency’s ‘applicability rule’ that had simply delayed the effective date of WOTUS.” Duvall says the delay rule would have maintained regulatory certainty and stability while the administration completes its reconsideration of the rule and develops a new regulation to provide both clean water and clear rules.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Counsel Scott Yager was also unhappy with the ruling. “The ruling underscores the need to finalize the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule,’ Yager says. “The court effectively brought WOTUS back from the dead, creating a zombie version of the rule that threatens the rights of farmers and ranchers across the country.”
Sources: NAFB News Service and Congressman Jim Banks