Ag News

U.S. District Court blocks 2015 WOTUS rule

On Aug. 21, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Georgia and nine other states in their lawsuit challenging the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule. This keeps an injunction against the rule in place while federal agencies finalize its replacement.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr called the 2015 rule “a clear example of federal overreach that infringed on the States’ traditional role as primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders.”

The other states subject to the ruling are Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

The court left in place its preliminary injunction that blocks the rule from going into effect in any of the coalition states while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) “continue their efforts to change the WOTUS Rule in light of the serious defects identified in this Order.”

In its ruling the court held that the 2015 WOTUS Rule “extend[ed] the agencies’ delegated authority beyond the limits of the [Clean Water Act]” in a number of ways and also violated multiple procedural requirements for issuing the rule set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

The court explained, “Congress has delegated the important role of protecting the nation’s waters to the agencies, but in fulfilling that role, the agencies must comply with the law. Here, they have failed to do just that.”

Last year, the EPA and the Corps proposed rules that would rescind and replace the 2015 WOTUS Rule. In April of this year, Georgia joined 16 other states in submitting comments supporting that proposal.

Georgia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation have opposed the 2015 WOTUS rule since its introduction and support the new clean water rule the agencies have proposed.