Court upholds Trump water rule
The U.S. District Court of South Carolina last week
dismissed a challenge to the Trump administration’s
Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which in 2020 replaced the
Obama administration’s controversial 2015 Waters of the
United States rule known by the acronym WOTUS.
The Biden administration announced its intentions to revise
the definition of waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water
Act on June 9, with the Department of Justice filing a
motion requesting remand of the Trump rule.
Led by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the
environmental groups asked the court to vacate the Navigable
Waters Protection Rule based on what they said were the
indisputable facts, including lost protection for waters.
That would have eliminated the Trump rule and allowed the
WOTUS rule to remain in effect. The court’s decision allows
the Trump rule to remain in effect until the Biden
administration finalizes a new rule.
The Coastal Conservation League’s challenge is one of 15
cases nationwide opposing the Trump rule.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, along with other
agricultural groups, is engaged in litigation across the
country to defend the Trump rule and considers last week’s
decision a key legal victory.
The decision ensures regulatory certainty while the Biden
administration moves through the lengthy rulemaking process,
said Scott Yager, NCBA chief environmental counsel.
The gravy on top was the judge’s outright dismissal of the
entire case, as it was the leading case in opposition to the
Trump rule — farther ahead procedurally than the other
cases, he said.
He thinks other judges will see the decision as influential
and put the other cases to bed as well, he said.
“This is the latest example of courts, by and large, seeing
the Trump rule as legally defensible,” he said.
That’s in contrast to the Obama WOTUS rule, which has been
struck down by multiple courts as being illegal under the
Administrative Procedures Act and the Clean Water Act, he
“This decision overall is a great legal victory for
landowners and land users across the country,” he said.
NCBA knows the Biden administration is going to come up with
its own rule, but the court’s decision gives the
organization another year or two to work with the
administration and Congress, he said.
NCBA’s message to Biden is that he create a new rule that
doesn’t hinder producers’ ability to make investments in
their land and care for their cattle.
EPA’s Office of Water held a call with agricultural
stakeholders the day after the announcement of its intention
to revise the Trump rule, and there was a short opportunity
for stakeholders to chime in on the call, he said.
“It was good that they did the outreach, but what we heard
was concerning. They’re posturing to repeal the Trump rule
and replace it with a more expansive Biden rule,” he said.
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