August 03, 2023

Interpretive Summary: Motion for summary judgement on WOTUS submitted

Motion for summary judgement on WOTUS submitted 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas asking the court to strike down the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of landowners and limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) regulation powers. Because of this, NCBA along with 18 industry groups are asking for the rest of WOTUS to be overturned.

“In Sackett v. EPA, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act,” said NCBA Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart. “A full rewrite of the Biden administration’s WOTUS definition is the only path to comply with the Sackett decision. NCBA is seeking summary judgement in our lawsuit against the Biden WOTUS rule and urging the Southern District of Texas to strike the rule from the books.”

Implementation of the WOTUS rule has already been temporarily stalled in 27 states after a series of other lawsuits. Earlier this year, a U.S. Southern District Court Judge issued an injunction that stopped WOTUS from going into effect in Texas and Idaho. The two states argued they should not be forced to comply with a rule unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.

Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the groups are hoping for a nationwide injunction. The motion states that landowners and producers are at continued risk of criminal and civil penalties for ordinary use of their property. The associations contend that, given the fundamental flaws of the current rule, it should be completely vacated in favor of a new rule.

“NCBA has been fighting against overreaching WOTUS rules for years, and this is just the latest example of how NCBA fights on every front from Congress to the courtroom,” said Hart. “We are proud to be the voice of America’s cattle producers in Washington.”

In response to this motion, EPA stated that the final rule on the definition of WOTUS would be issued before September 1, 2023. The final rule was initially published in January of this year, but the Supreme Court’s decision modified the definition. Responding to the various court decisions, EPA has noted the agency remains “fully committed to ensuring that all people have access to clean, safe water. We will never waver from that responsibility.” The Army Corps of Engineers and EPA are reportedly going to be “interpreting ‘waters of the United States’ consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision” moving forward.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Glenn "GT" Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said "Today's unanimous ruling in Sackett v EPA is a victory for America's farmers, ranchers, and landowners. The decision reaffirms the rights of property owners and provides long-needed clarity to rural America. In light of this decision, the Biden Administration should withdraw its flawed final WOTUS rule. It is time to finally put an end to the regulatory whiplash and create a workable rule that promotes clean water while protecting the rights of rural Americans."