Ag News

2015 WOTUS rule rejected by Texas court

While the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work to finalize a revised clean water rule, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled the agencies broke the law in finalizing the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The 2015 WOTUS rule was opposed by Georgia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The court invalidated the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ 2015 expansion of federal jurisdiction over small and isolated waters. After years of litigation in suits filed by dozens of state governments and trade groups, this is the first court to reach a final decision on the lawfulness of the 2015 rule. Several court decisions preliminarily blocked the rule while lawsuits progressed. 

The U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the agencies violated basic requirements of fair process when they concluded the 2015 rulemaking without first releasing for comment a key report that was the basis for many of their most controversial decisions.

The order came in response to suits by a group of 17 private-sector plaintiffs that included AFBF and a broad coalition of business and industry organizations as well as the states of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The groups challenged the 2015 WOTUS rule as unlawfully expanding federal jurisdiction at the expense of state and municipal authority and offending basic rules of fair process. Having found the rule unlawful for procedural violations, the court did not consider the various other statutory and constitutional challenges.

Several other legal challenges to the 2015 rule remain pending in federal courts across the country.