U.S. district judge in Georgia rules against WOTUS

By Ashley Rice

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia has ruled the 2015 “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule as substantially and procedurally unlawful.

Eight states filed the lawsuit on June 30, 2015, against administrators of the EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and were joined by 17 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia ruled that the WOTUS rule “…extends the Agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the CWA (Clean Water Act) and that the Agencies’ promulgation of the WOTUS Rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act’s procedural requirements.”

What does this mean for the agricultural community? This was one of the first times a court ruled the 2015 WOTUS rule not only violated the authority of the CWA but is also substantively and procedurally unlawful.

While this may only seem to be a small victory, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction to have a federal court weigh in on the 2015 WOTUS rule.

“Since first laying eyes on the content of the 2015 final WOTUS rule, the agricultural community has been arguing that it exceeded the authority given to EPA and the Corps by Congress in the Clean Water Act,” stated Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of natural and environmental resources. “This recent court ruling is welcomed as it validates our view on the missteps the previous administration took both procedurally and substantively.” 

The CWA was implemented in 1972 to restore and maintain the nation’s waters, mainly by prohibiting the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters from any point source. The definition of navigable waters included all waters of the United States. Thus, the WOTUS rule was later developed and signed into law in 2015 to further clarify the scope of the CWA.

Specifically, the 2015 WOTUS rule added three new categories of waters to the definition of waters in the CWA, including:

*Waters that are tributaries, directly or indirectly, to a primary water;

*Waters that are adjacent (bordering, contiguous or neighboring) to a primary water, an impoundment or a tributary; and

*Waters that have a “significant nexus” to primary water, impoundment or tributary (within the 100-year floodplain or are within 4,000 feet of the high tide line), as determined on a case-by-case basis.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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