AFBF, ag and business groups file legal challenge to WOTUS rule
On Jan. 18, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and 16 other business and agriculture advocacy groups filed suit in federal court to stop the new Waters of the United States Rule set by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The rule was finalized on Dec. 29, 2022, and published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18.
“Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources we’re entrusted with. Clean water is important to all of us,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Unfortunately, the new WOTUS rule once again gives the federal government sweeping authority over private lands. This isn’t what clean water regulations were intended to do. Farmers and ranchers should not have to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to determine how we can farm our land.”
In the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Texas, AFBF alleges that the rule makes clear that the EPA and Corps of Engineers are determined to exert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over an extensive range of dry land and water features - whether large or small; permanent, intermittent, or ephemeral; flowing or stagnant; natural or manmade; interstate or intrastate; and no matter how remote from or lacking in a physical connection to actual navigable waters.
The groups say their members will constantly be at risk that any sometimes-wet feature on their property will be deemed WOTUS by the agencies using vague and unpredictable standards—making normal business activities in that area subject to criminal and civil penalties.
“The new rule is vague and creates uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water. We believe a judge will recognize these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act, and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue stocking America’s pantries.”
AFBF is joined in the suit by the American Petroleum Institute, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors of America, the Leading Builders of America, Matagorda County (Texas) Farm Bureau, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Realtors, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Mining Association, the National Multifamily Housing Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, the Public Lands Council, Texas Farm Bureau, and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
To read the AFBF suit, click here.
The rule goes into effect March 20.
In a separate action, the state of Texas has also filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Southern Texas against the EPA and Corps of Engineers seeking to stop the WOTUS rule. Texas claims the rule is unconstitutional and reverses precedents already established by the Supreme Court.