This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a final rule amending the 2023 definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS) to conform with the recent Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA. The agencies are committed to following the law and implementing the Clean Water Act to deliver the essential protections that safeguard the nation’s waters from pollution and degradation.
“While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, tribes and partners,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We’ve moved quickly to finalize amendments to the definition of WOTUS to provide a clear path forward that adheres to the Supreme Court’s ruling. EPA will never waver from our responsibility to ensure clean water for all. Moving forward, we will do everything we can with our existing authorities and resources to help communities, states and tribes protect the clean water upon which we all depend.”
While EPA’s and Army’s 2023 rule defining WOTUS was not directly before the Supreme Court, the decision in Sackett made clear that certain aspects of the 2023 rule are invalid. The amendments issued are limited and change only parts of the 2023 rule that are invalid under the Sackett v. EPA decision.
While opponents of the WOTUS definition applauded the revision, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval noted more could have been done: “EPA had a golden opportunity to write a WOTUS rule that’s fair to farmers and stands the test of time, but instead chose to continue government overreach and revise only a small slice of the rule that was rejected by the Supreme Court.
“We’re pleased the vague and confusing ‘significant nexus’ test has been eliminated as the Supreme Court dictated. But EPA has ignored other clear concerns raised by the justices, 26 states and farmers across the country about the rule’s failure to respect private property rights and the Clean Water Act.
“Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with. They deserve a rule that respects farmers as partners in that effort.”
The agencies will host a public webinar on Sept. 12 to provide updates on the definition of waters of the United States. For registration information, visit EPA’s webpage for the amendments rule.
Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American Farm Bureau