WOTUS woes hit farmers in 26 states

19 August, 2018, 23:18 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Federal judge blocks Trump administration's attempt to rescind Obama-era clean water protections

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated the Environmental Protection Agency's rule to delay amendments to its Risk Management Program adopted in the wake of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant disaster. "The court finds that the government failed to comply with these requirements in implementing the Suspension Rule", according to Norton's decision. The Clean Water Act prohibits discharge of pollutants from a point source into "navigable waters" without a permit. That decision halted the Trump administration's attempt to repeal what's known as the Clean Water Rule.

"The Suspension Rule typified this administration's disregard for the environment, the rule of law, and public input", said Steven Goldstein, legal fellow at Defenders of Wildlife. The decision by the U.S. District Court in SC means that the so-called Clean Water Rule is again operative in 26 states where district courts have not halted the regulation. On the same day that the suspension rule went into effect, environmental plaintiffs filed suit against the manner in which the suspension rule was enacted, saying it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because there was an insufficient public notice and comment period. The ruling ends the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' suspension of clean water protections under the Clean Water Act, one of the nation's bedrock environmental laws, and puts the Clean Water Rule back in effect for more than half of the country.

According to the EPA, the proposed WOTUS definition would include all territorial seas, interstate waters and wetlands and all waters that are now being used - or which were used in the past or which may be susceptible for use in interstate or foreign commerce - including all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide.

Agricultural groups said the ruling reinforces why the Administration needs to take quick actions to limit the impact of this ruling.


"To avoid widespread uncertainty and potential enforcement against ordinary farming activities in these already uncertain times, we call on the administration to take immediate steps to limit the impact of this unsafe court decision", he said.

"Even were the court to agree for purposes of argument that the cause of the West, Texas, disaster being arson is relevant to some of the accident prevention provisions of the chemical disaster rule, it is irrelevant to the emergency-response and information-sharing provisions, including those that have indisputably been delayed from the original March 14, 2018, effective date", the court stated. In a statement Yager said the ruling underscores the urgent need to finalize the repeal of the 2015 rule.

The EPA can not delay the rule "by invoking general rulemaking authority under a different statutory provision", of federal clean air law, the court said in the ruling. A Kentucky Department of Agriculture spokesperson said the department is reviewing the opinion, and will continue to monitor the courts on this issue.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has a completely different take, calling the ruling "misguided" and the WOTUS rule itself "overbroad, vague and illegal".

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