April 27, 2023

Biden vetoes bill to end WOTUS

Biden vetoes bill to end WOTUS

By: Sydney Sheffield 

President Joe Biden has recently vetoed a bill that would overturn the Waters of The United States rule (WOTUS), which has been in effect since March 20th. The vetoed bill had bipartisan support, as well as the support of those in the agricultural industry. Now that the President has vetoed the bill, WOTUS repeal legislation can only be enacted if two-thirds of the House and Senate vote to override the veto. 

“This veto flies in the face of President Biden’s promise to support farmers and ranchers. This rule is a clear case of government overreach that leaves farmers wondering whether they can farm their own land. It’s a shame the President is standing with bureaucrats instead of with the people who stock America’s pantries,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “The President’s decision to disregard the bipartisan will of Congress also causes farmers, ranchers, and all Americans to doubt his often-repeated commitment to work with Congress when Members come together on a bipartisan basis. They did so and he rejected their will with the stroke of a pen. Mr. President, you let us down.”

WOTUS is said to reduce uncertainty from changing regulatory definitions, protect people’s health, and support economic opportunity. The final rule restores water protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters. Those in support claim that WOTUS would strengthen fundamental protections for waters that are sources of drinking water while supporting agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities.

“Both the House and Senate voted in a bipartisan manner to vacate this Administration’s disastrous WOTUS rule. America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners have made it clear this WOTUS definition is overly burdensome and unworkable, only exacerbating the regulatory uncertainty rural communities currently face,” said Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and cosponsor of the vetoed bill. “By vetoing this resolution, President Biden has once again turned his back on rural America.”

A decision surrounding WOTUS will now be made by the Supreme Court. It is expected to issue a ruling by early summer in Sackett V. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that may limit EPA’s power to regulate water features on private land. In the meantime, several lawsuits are working through the courts that could limit the scope of WOTUS. 

Shortly after the President’s veto, a U.S. District Court in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction effectively overturning the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule in 24 states. The judge agreed with those states’ argument that WOTUS poses a threat to their sovereign rights and amounts to irreparable harm. Additionally, the judge stated that states would expend unrecoverable resources complying with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.

“The EPA argues the public will benefit from the added clarity that the rule provides,” Judge Daniel L. Hovland said. “Common sense would lead any reasonable person to reach a far different conclusion. The volume of litigation that has generated from the Clean Water Act over the last decade from federal district courts, federal courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States reveals nothing but chaos and uncertainty.”

A previous federal court ruling granted an injunction preventing WOTUS from going into effect in Idaho and Texas. However, a federal judge in Kentucky denied that state’s request to issue a similar injunction. The preliminary injunction is in effect in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.