Biden Administration Sued Over Water Rule’s ‘Impossible And Unpredictable’ Burdens

Published online: Jan 20, 2023 News Michigan Farm Bureau
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AFBF and other prominent ag and business groups are suing the Biden administration over the EPA’s complicated and confusing new set of water rules.

Longstanding exclusions for small and isolated water features on farms were removed in the massive 453-page Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which goes into effect on March 20, 2023.

EPA moved forward with the rulemaking process for the WOTUS overhaul despite a pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Sackett v. EPA. That case, which centers around an Idaho couple’s fight to build a home near a lake, could clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and carry major implications for the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule.

“The Rule imposes impossible — and unpredictable — burdens on land owners, users, and purchasers,” the lawsuit states.

“It requires them to assess not only their own land, but also vast expanses of land beyond their own holdings, using multiple vaguely defined connections to potentially remote features, in an effort to determine if their land is regulated under the CWA.”

The groups suing the EPA claim the new WOTUS rules assert “improperly vague and malleable jurisdiction” over wetlands and other specific water features.

“The Rule should be held unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act, because the Rule adopts an unworkable definition of WOTUS that conflicts with the CWA, the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent,” the groups wrote in the lawsuit.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, and National Association of Home Builders are among the 18 plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit.

“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.”

A decision in the Sackett case is expected in early 2023.