Gov. Burgum applauds unanimous Supreme Court ruling reining in EPA on wetlands

This week’s unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling reining in the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of wetlands was hailed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum as a victory for property owners, state rights and common sense. North Dakota was among 24 states challenging EPA implementation of the far-reaching Waters of the United States regulations, pending the outcome of the case decided by the high court on Thursday.

“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,” 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.”

The landmark case involved Idaho property owners who were prohibited by the EPA from building a house on their land for more than 15 years. The Pacific Legal Foundation representing the couple summed it up this way.

In 2007, Chantell and Mike Sackett were among the early victims of the fractured Rapanos decision when they started to build a new home in Priest Lake, Idaho, but were stopped by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. The agencies insisted the residential lot was a wetland subject to federal authority and ordered the work stopped under threat of tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines unless they secured a federal permit. The Sacketts spent the next 16 years fighting for the right to use their property. Their ordeal spanned four presidential administrations and every level of the federal court system.

In the separate case brought by the states, a North Dakota federal judge last month halted the Biden administration’s implementation of the radically revised WOTUS rules in the 24 states that sued the EPA. Burgum’s office took credit for the joint effort to stymie the EPA long enough to buy time for the high court to act in the Sackett’s case.

North Dakota was one of 23 states that joined West Virginia in February in bringing a lawsuit against the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking a federal judge to declare the new WOTUS rule unlawful and vacate it. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation or enforcement of the new WOTUS rule…

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 is a co-leader in the lawsuit filed in February in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota.

The National Pork Producers Council’s response to the Supreme Court smackdown of the EPA typified the reaction throughout the ag sector and beyond.

“The Supreme Court’s historical decision to define the limits of EPA authority under the Clean Water Act is a tremendous victory for America’s pork producers who have played a leading role for almost two decades in opposing the agency’s heavy-handed efforts to micromanage our farms,” stated Duane Stateler, NPPC vice president and Ohio pork producer. “This ruling is a clear punctuation point after decades of attempts by activists and the EPA to expand the federal government’s power and control over private land. Farmers are the originators of conservation and are taught the key to preservation is to protect our natural resources. We can now proceed with certainty to use all our conservation assets to best farm our land so we can deliver healthy food to our customers for generations to come.”