The American Farm Bureau Federation
and 17 other organizations have filed a lawsuit against the
Environment Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers challenging the agencies’ new rule defining Waters
of the United States, known as WOTUS.
The rule makes clear the agencies “are
determined to exert (Clean Water Act) jurisdiction over a
staggering range of dry land and water features — whether
large or small; permanent, intermittent, or ephemeral;
flowing or stagnant; natural or manmade; interstate or
intrastate; and no matter how remote from or lacking in a
physical connection to actual navigable waters,” the lawsuit
“Under the rule, plaintiffs’ members
will constantly be at risk that any sometimes-wet feature on
their property will be deemed WOTUS by the agencies using
vague and unpredictable standards — making normal business
activities in that area subject to criminal and civil
penalties,” it states.
The plaintiffs allege the rule
violates the Administrative Procedure Act, contravenes the
plain text of the Clean Water Act and violates the U.S.
They are asking the court to declare
the rule unlawful, to vacate it and enjoin the agencies from
implementing, applying or enforcing the rule.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston
Farmers and ranchers share the goal of
protecting the resources entrusted to them, said Zippy
Duvall, Farm Bureau president.
“Clean water is important to all of
us. Unfortunately, the new WOTUS rule once again gives the
federal government sweeping authority over private lands.
This isn’t what clean water regulations were intended to
do,” he said.
“Farmers and ranchers should not have
to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to determine how
we can farm our land,” he said.
The new rule is vague and creates
uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles
from the nearest navigable water, he said.
“We believe a judge will recognize
these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act
and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to
protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue
stocking America’s pantries,” he said.
Farm Bureau is joined in the lawsuit
by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands
Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Corn
Growers Association, U.S. Poultry Association, state and
county Farm Bureaus and organizations representing
infrastructure and housing.
The Biden administration’s WOTUS
definition is an attack against farmers and ranchers, and
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association will be fighting back
in court, said Mary-Thomas Hart, the association’s chief
“The rule removes longstanding,
bipartisan exclusions for small and isolated water features
on farms and ranches and adds to the regulatory burden
cattle producers are facing under this administration,” she
NCBA maintains regulating those water
features at the federal level under the Clean Water Act
disrupts normal agricultural operations and interferes with
cattle producers’ abilities to make improvements to their
“NCBA is also concerned that the EPA
charges headfirst on a controversial rulemaking while this
very issue is currently before the Supreme Court. We look
forward to a decision in Sackett v. EPA,” Hart said.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments
in the case in October and is expected to release a decision
early this year.
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