ND officials hail federal court ruling on controversial EPA water regs

Ever since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency has schemed to dramatically expand the agency’s grip on waterways, tributaries, wetlands and adjacent lands nationwide. For the most part, the courts have pushed back against the EPA’s overreach, only to revisit the issue time and again.

The most recently minted version of the so-called “Waters of the United States” regulations faces a reckoning in the U.S. Supreme Court, which will rule on its constitutionality by the end of the current session. Rather than defer and wait for the high court’s decision, however, the Biden administration went full speed ahead to implement the controversial plan.

But the EPA has been thwarted once again, at least for now. Last month a federal court prohibited the regulations from taking effect in Texas and Idaho. More recently a North Dakota federal court judge followed suit, halting the agency’s power grab in another 24 states.

Not surprisingly, the injunction was welcome news to agricultural interests, according to Forum News.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is among the opponents of the new rule who have criticized the new rule for jumping ahead of the Sackett decision.

“Once again, the courts have affirmed that the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule is overreaching and harmful to America’s beef farmers and ranchers,” said NCBA President Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer. “Cattle producers in 26 states now have some additional certainty while this rule is being litigated and we are optimistic that the Supreme Court will provide nationwide clarity on the federal government’s proper jurisdiction over water.”

The new WOTUS regulations total more than 150,000 words and take up some 270 pages in the Federal Register. When it comes down to it, the rule includes everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. For example:

The agencies interpret the term “waters of the United States” to include:

–traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, and interstate waters (“paragraph (a)(1) waters”);impoundments of “waters of the United States” (“paragraph (a)(2) impoundments”);

–tributaries to traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, or paragraph (a)(2) impoundments when the tributaries meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard (“jurisdictional tributaries”);

–wetlands adjacent to paragraph (a)(1) waters, wetlands adjacent to and with a continuous surface connection to relatively permanent paragraph (a)(2) impoundments, wetlands adjacent to tributaries that meet the relatively permanent standard, and wetlands adjacent to paragraph (a)(2) impoundments or jurisdictional tributaries when the wetlands meet the significant nexus standard (“jurisdictional adjacent wetlands”); and

–intrastate lakes and ponds, streams, or wetlands not identified in paragraphs (a)(1) through (4) that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard (“paragraph (a)(5) waters”).

North Dakota elected officials who’ve opposed the feds’ relentless effort to impose the far-reaching rules also hailed the court’s action.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., called the injunction “a welcome relief from the ever-growing, burdensome regulations being pushed by the Biden administration.” He also noted he remains hopeful the Sackett decision will “resolve the uncertainty created by this federal overreach.”

“This expanded WOTUS rule would impose higher costs on critical industries, including agriculture, energy and construction, leading to greater inflation throughout our economy. That’s the last thing our nation needs,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said the “injunction is great news for North Dakota’s ag producers as they gear up for planting season.”

“The Biden administration’s WOTUS rule is a red tape disaster that does nothing to keep our water clean. I’m hopeful the court will ultimately throw it out,”  his statement said.

In the meantime, property owners in the 24 states that declined to join the mostly red states challenging the EPA remain subject to the new federal water regulations, including Minnesotans.