The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Environmental Protection Agency interpreted wetlands too broadly when establishing its new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation, prompting North Dakota leaders to praise the court’s decision Thursday.
“This ruling is an important step towards reining in the Biden administration’s repeated regulatory overreaches,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, said. “The new WOTUS rule being pushed by the EPA would impose tremendous burdens on industries across our economy, including agriculture, energy and construction. That means even higher costs for consumers and stunted economic growth, limiting the creation of good-paying jobs. As such, we’ve been working to reverse this harmful regulation from the administration, and with this ruling in place, the lower courts should follow suit, preserve states’ authority to regulate local waters within their borders and protect private property rights.”
The WOTUS rule has been under a preliminary injunction for more than half of states in the nation, including in North Dakota, following an order from U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland last month.
In the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Supreme Court narrowed federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction to only wetlands that are “indistinguishable” from larger bodies of water “due to a continuous surface connection.”
“Regulation of land and water use lies at the core of traditional state authority. An overly broad interpretation of the CWA’s reach would impinge on this authority,” the court wrote.
“This is a huge victory for North Dakota private landowners, agriculture producers and energy producers,” North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “The consensus majority opinion finally brings clarity and a clear definition to what comprises wetlands. It protects landowner rights and gives landowners an understandable legal framework to use when working their lands.”
“Today’s Supreme Court decision finally makes clear what we’ve known all along, that the Clean Water Act was never intended to regulate puddles,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, said. “The Court was right to rein in the EPA’s quest to regulate to the rain drop. Now, the Biden administration must withdraw their Waters of the United States rule in light of the decision and stop trying to circumvent the law. I am hopeful this case puts a stop to the unworkable regulatory ping pong which North Dakotans and landowners have been subjected to for far too long.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision to rein in the EPA’s overreach is a win for North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers,” Congressman Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, said. “For years, the threat of WOTUS has hung over the heads of our ag producers. It would violate private property rights and add more layers of red tape. The Biden administration needs to immediately rescind its proposed WOTUS rule so we can get back to policies that help producers feed and fuel the world.”
“The Supreme Court has now affirmed what we’ve argued since the Biden administration resurrected this misguided Obama-era WOTUS rule – that the EPA overstepped its authority in trying to extend federal jurisdiction to nearly every stream, pond and wetland in the country,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said. “This ruling is a major victory for farmers and ranchers, the energy industry, housing developers and other landowners who need clarity and a common-sense interpretation of which wetlands should be covered by the Clean Water Act. We wholeheartedly agree with the Supreme Court’s opinion that ‘States can and will continue to exercise their primary authority to combat water pollution by regulating land and water use,’ because no one cares more about North Dakota’s land and water than the people who live here.”
North Dakota Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies called the court ruling a “huge victory for agriculture across the country.” “While the recent ruling does not halt the Biden EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act, a 9-0 decision against the concept of the ‘significant-nexus’ test sends a very strong message to the current administration,” he said.
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers published the final WOTUS rule in the Federal Register on Jan. 18, repealing the definition of WOTUS that the Trump administration adopted in 2020 in its Navigable Waters Protection Rule. North Dakota was a co-leader in the lawsuit filed in February in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota. Twenty-four states were involved in the lawsuit.
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