EPA's WOTUS Rule on Hold Nationwide
By MARY KAUFFMAN
October 10, 2015
The WOTUS rule issued June 29, 2015, expanded the reach of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers and was an update to the Clean Water Act, a piece of legislation that has been adjusted several times since becoming effective in 1972. The update known as the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS) went in effect earlier this spring, giving federal agencies authority to regulate smaller streams and bodies of water, including temporary runoff.
The new rule was immediately challenged in ten different suits involving more than 30 states and scores of private parties. The WOTUS rule was considered to be a devastating blow to private property rights and an unlawful power grab by the EPA over virtually all bodies of water in the United States
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Friday that the updated rule should be placed on hold while further work is done to determine the allowed scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction. While the newest version of the law is in limbo, the immediate previous version is in use.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, “Today’s decision to put a national hold on the controversial WOTUS rule is further good news for opponents of the EPA’s culture of overreach. I’ve been fighting to reign in the EPA and the harmful impacts the WOTUS rule could have on almost every corner of Alaska.” Murkowski said, “I will continue my efforts to do my part to ensure this rule is never imposed on the state.”
As Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murkowski has included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2016 funding bill that prohibits the EPA from using funds to implement the new WOTUS rule.
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, also released a prepared statement.
“I’m grateful that the court has halted this over-reaching jurisdictional expansion – known as the Waters of the U.S. rule,” said Senator Sullivan. “This rule is a prime example of this Administration’s persistent disregard for the rule of law and yet another attempt to bypass Congress and the American people by granting the EPA vast new authority over lands across the country, particularly in Alaska, which is home to 60 percent of the nation’s jurisdictional waters.”
Quoting a press release, "Since arriving to the Senate in January of 2015, Senator Sullivan has worked aggressively, with a bipartisan group of colleagues in pushing back against this federal overreach."
Alaska Congressman Don Young (R-AK) also responded to the decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block implementation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. In a prepared statement Young said, “We’ll fight this regulation in Congress and we’ll fight it in court. This rule cannot stand.” said Congressman Young. “It’s a reoccurring theme with this Administration – skirt the rules and the Constitution. While not a nail in the coffin for this egregious regulatory power grab, today’s circuit court injunction is an important step in our continued fight.”
Young said, “For Alaskans, the WOTUS rule could create insurmountable hurdles for even the most basic activity, and cause significant damage to our local economies,” Young said. “With more than three million lakes, twelve thousand rivers, and thousands of streams, creeks and ponds, we must ensure that the integrity of the federal-state partnership under the Clean Water Act is preserved.”
According to Young, under the rule, the federal governments’ jurisdiction would be dramatically expanded over states through the enforcement of:
Friday’s ruling applies across all 50 states, leaving EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers legally unable to implement the rule until the federal courts determine just where the many pending WOTUS cases will be consolidated and eventually decided.
In a statement released Friday, the two federal agencies, Army Corps of Engineers, acknowledged the new legal developments regarding the regulation, which was renamed the "Clean Water Rule" when the revised version was released in spring 2015. "The agencies respect the court’s decision to allow for more deliberate consideration of the issues in the case and we look forward to litigating the merits of the Clean Water Rule," the statement said. "The Clean Water Rule was developed by the agencies to respond to an urgent need to improve and simplify the process for identifying waters that are and are not protected under the Clean Water Act, and is based on the latest science and the law. The Clean Water Rule represents the agencies’ continuing commitment to protecting and restoring the nation’s water resources that are vital for our health, environment, and economy. The agencies’ prior rule will remain in effect nationwide and we will continue to apply the best science and technical data on a case-by-case basis to waters at issue."
H.R. 1732, The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act would require:
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