Court halts EPA enforcement of ‘Waters’ rule

congressThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Oct. 9 to stop enforcement nationwide of the “Waters of the United States” rule.

The rule, which was proposed in 2014 and enacted in August, redefines which bodies of water and farm activities are subject to EPA oversight. It has been cause for concern among the nation’s farmers because it would give the EPA broad jurisdiction historically relegated to individual states under the Clean Water Act over dry land features and common farming practices.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the Oct. 9 court decision “recognized that this rule has serious flaws and cannot go forward until the courts have had an opportunity to understand its effect on farmers, ranchers and landowners of all kinds. The judges expressed deep concerns over the basic legality of this rule. We’re not in the least surprised; this is the worst EPA order we have seen since the agency was established more than 40 years ago.”

The decision expands a stay that a North Dakota judge imposed in August that applied to 13 states.

“We are confident the courts will strike down this rule. Unfortunately, we also know stays don’t last forever, and cases like this almost always take years to win,” Stallman said. He urged the Senate to pass S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would nullify the “Waters” rule. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in May.