Former President Barack Obama’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule abridged state sovereignty and constituted a federal grab of natural resources on an unprecedented scale when it was issued in 2015, but it may be no more following a federal judge’s ruling.
U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood granted a substantial victory to the 10 states that challenged the rule in the courts. Godbey claimed that the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Clean Water Act and was therefore unconstitutional.
“The court finds that both because of its combination with tributaries and the selection of over-broad geographic limits without showing a significant nexus, the adjacent waters definition in the WOTUS rule is unlawful under Justice Kennedy’s Rapanos opinion,” Wood wrote.
Wood noted that the rule was issued in direct violation of states’ rights, as the Obama administration flagrantly disregarded the constitutional balance of powers.
“Most importantly, that significant increase in jurisdiction takes land and water falling traditionally under the states’ authority and transfers them to federal authority,” Wood wrote.
“In light of this significant intrusion on traditional state authority, the CWA still contains the policy language of recognizing traditional state power in this area, and Congress has not made any clear or manifest statement to authorize intrusion into that traditional state power since Rapanos,” she added.
Wood suggested that the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency could do additional work on the measure in order to make it compliant with the law. In the age of President Donald Trump, that may not be happening for quite some time.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is very pleased with the court ruling.
“The court ruling is clear affirmation of exactly what we have been saying for the past five years,” AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said. “The EPA badly misread Supreme Court precedent. It encroached on the traditional powers of the states and simply ignored basic principles of the Administrative Procedure Act when it issued this unlawful regulation.”
Republican Senators have introduced a bill called the “Define WOTUS Act,” to take the power out of the hands of federal bureaucrats by defining the term through legislation.
“The Obama-era WOTUS rule threatened Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses by giving the federal government authority to regulate water on 97 percent of land in our state,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who is a co-sponsor of the legislation with Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN).
“President Trump and his administration have taken tremendous steps to roll back this far-reaching regulation and provide for more certainty with a new, clearer definition of WOTUS. But it’s the job of Congress to make a new, reasonable definition permanent, and that’s what this bill does—it ensures more predictability and workability for Iowans for years to come,” she added.
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