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Georgia court rules against 2015 WOTUS ruleGeorgia court rules against 2015 WOTUS rule

Federal judge keeps preliminary injunction in place for 11 states involved in waters of U.S. lawsuit.

Jacqui Fatka

August 22, 2019

2 Min Read
Georgia court rules against 2015 WOTUS rule

A federal court said the 2015 waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act (CWA) because of its “vast expansion of jurisdiction over waters and land traditionally within the states’ regulatory authority.”

The court for the southern district of Georgia found the Environmental Protection Agency, which was under the Obama Administration at the time, overstepped not just the CWA but also the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which lays out the most basic rules governing how agencies may propose and establish federal regulations.

The Georgia court kept in place a preliminary injunction preventing the rule from becoming effective in the 11 states involved in the lawsuit while EPA finalizes its own repeal and replacement of the 2015 rule.

The court opinion noted that after analyzing the administrative record, “the court holds that the WOTUS rule extends the agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the CWA and, thus, is not a permissible construction of the phrase ‘waters of the United States’ within the statute and that the agencies’ promulgation of the WOTUS rule violates the APA’s procedural requirements,” the ruling noted.

The ruling was a victory not just for the plaintiff states but a broad coalition of more than a dozen private-sector groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Related:Court confirms WOTUS rule-making flawed

“The court ruling is clear affirmation of exactly what we have been saying for the past five years: The EPA badly misread Supreme Court precedent,” American Farm Bureau Federation general counsel Ellen Steen said. “It encroached on the traditional powers of the states and simply ignored basic principles of the Administrative Procedure Act when it issued this unlawful regulation. The court found fault with the EPA’s interpretation of some of the most basic principles of the CWA, most importantly which waters the federal government may regulate, and which waters must be left to states and municipalities.”

Jurists repeatedly criticized EPA’s handling of the WOTUS rule-making, in particular its interpretation of the Supreme Court’s “Rapanos decision, which laid out guidelines for determining where federal jurisdiction begins and ends.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with a coalition of groups, has urged a repeal and replacement of the 2015 rule to ensure clean water and clear rules.

Plaintiffs that filed the present lawsuit against the administrators of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers on June 30, 2015, include the states of Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Utah.

Related:Ag groups seek changes to updated WOTUS rule

Since then, the state plaintiffs have been joined by intervening plaintiffs, including: the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Forest & Paper Assn., American Petroleum Institute, American Road and Transportation Builders Assn., Georgia Association of Manufacturers, Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, Leading Builders of America, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., National Corn Growers Assn., National Mining Assn., National Pork Producers Council, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Assn., Public Lands Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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