U.S. Courts temporarily block implementation of WOTUS: Groups respond
From the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Ruling:
"A stay allows for a more deliberate determination whether this exercise of executive power, enabled by Congress and explicated by the Supreme Court, is proper under the dictates of federal law. A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new rule and whether they will survive legal testing. A stay honors the policy of cooperative federalism that informs the Clean Water Act and must attend the shared responsibility for safeguarding the nation's waters. See 33 U.S.C. § 1251(b) ("It is the policy of Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of the States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution."). In light of the disparate rulings on this very question issued by district courts around the country—enforcement of the rule having been preliminarily enjoined in thirteen states —a stay will, consistent with Congress's stated purpose of establishing a national policy, 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a), restore uniformity of regulation under the familiar, if imperfect, pre-Rule regime, pending judicial review.
"Accordingly, on due review of the relevant considerations in light of the briefs filed by petitioners, respondents and intervenors, and in the exercise of our discretion, we GRANT petitioners' motion for stay. The Clean Water Rule is hereby STAYED, nationwide, pending further order of the court."
Iowa Farm Bureau Applauds the Ruling
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Farm Bureau members are encouraged by the news that today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a temporary stay of the EPA's "Waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule nationwide, effectively blocking its implementation until further court action.
"Although the stay is temporary, it sends a strong signal that the rule is unlawful and underscores what thousands of Iowa farmers have said all along – that the rule is seriously flawed, confusing and would impose undue burden and hardship on farmers and the public," said IFBF President Craig Hill. "It also underscores that the EPA's process for rulemaking was flawed."
The new rule cannot be enforced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or EPA.
"Unfortunately," Hill added, "it will take years to get to a final court ruling which will not only cost a significant amount of money, it also comes at a cost to the environment by delaying conservation practices. We urge Congress to nullify the rule."
Ernst Statement on Nationwide Suspension of WOTUS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA, released the following statement:
"Today's ruling sends a strong message to the EPA that it has for too long ignored the voice and legitimate concerns raised by those directly impacted by the expanded definition of WOTUS and mounting overregulation on hardworking Americans.
"The EPA continues to act as an unchecked federal agency of the Obama Administration, expanding its power over Iowa farms, small businesses, ranchers, and other landowners in our rural communities.
"It is abundantly clear that this ill-conceived rule breeds uncertainty and confusion, while adding more red tape that threatens the livelihoods of many in Iowa and across the country.
"That is why I recently introduced a resolution, along with 49 of my Senate colleagues, to scrap this rule and send a message to the EPA that they failed to address the concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses in Iowa and across the country.
"I remain steadfast in my commitment to see this rule scrapped for good and not just on pause. It's time President Obama's EPA take into account the commonsense voice of hardworking Iowans who know what this rule means for them and their families."
Rep. David Young's statement:
WASHINGTON, DC – "This is good news. Today's court ruling on Waters of the U.S. reinforces what Iowans have been saying all along: this confusing and job-killing rule is a federal land grab. It hurts Iowa farmers, job creators and workers, communities, and private land owners," said Congressman Young. Young continued, "We have now seen the U.S. judicial system block the rule from going forward. In the House of Representatives we have been leading the fight, using several legislative measures to try and stop this damaging rule. I will continue working with my colleagues in the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, and on the House floor to find a solution to stop this rule." David Young is the Congressman serving all the people of Iowa's 3rd District, with offices in Des Moines, Creston and Council Bluffs. He is a member of the Committee on Appropriations.
Iowa Cattlemen's Association applaud decision
WASHINGTON, DC – The Iowa Cattlemen's Association supports the court's decision.
"The mass confusion generated from this rule has been a major concern for our members," says Phil Reemtsma, president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. "We have heard that stock ponds are jurisdictional as well as lawfully constructed grassed waterways from Region 3 EPA staff. Yet instructions from the DC office have said this rule does not expand the EPA's ability to enforce Clean Water Act compliance. In Iowa, stock ponds and grassed waterways are often constructed with producer inputs to improve water quality. There is no doubt this rule as currently written, would prohibit Iowa cattlemen from taking proactive measures to protect water quality in the state."
A three judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Judicial Circuit voted 2-1 to stay implementation over concern that burden to state and federal government, as well as private parties and the public in general, from the implementation of the WOTUS rule outweighed any harm to the agencies in keeping the status quo.
National Pork Producers Council says ruling is victory for ag, business
WASHINGTON, D.C., – In a significant victory for the agricultural and business sectors, a federal appellate court this morning suspended nationwide implementation of the "Waters of the United States" rule until further order of the court. The National Pork Producers Council hailed the decision.
"This is a huge victory for farmers," said NPPC President Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. "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."
The rule, which took effect Aug. 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.
The decision to "stay" the rule, granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, comes a little more than month after a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary injunction against implementation of the regulation. That injunction, however, applied only to the 13 states that brought the lawsuit against EPA and the Corps of Engineers in the North Dakota-based District Court.
But, said the Court of Appeals, "In light of the disparate rulings … issued by district courts around the country – enforcement of the Rule having been preliminarily enjoined in thirteen states – a stay will, consistent with Congress's stated purpose of establishing a national policy, restore uniformity of regulation under the familiar, if imperfect, pre-Rule regime, pending judicial review."
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 "facially suspect." (Click here to read the court's decision.)
"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."