News Feature | January 26, 2018

Groups Lobby To Preserve Supreme Court Ruling On WOTUS

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

After the Supreme Court cleared the way for an Obama-era environmental regulation to go into effect, Congress may become a hot spot for a major fight over water policy.

“The Supreme Court's unanimous decision [on January 22] in a jurisdictional fight over the Clean Water Rule has spurred a dash by the Trump administration to finalize its delay of the 2015 regulation and a push by industry groups for a legislative fix,” Greenwire reported.

As a result of the decision, the courts are expected to withdraw a block of the Clean Water Rule in the coming weeks, at which point the regulation from the Obama administration would go into effect in 37 states, according to Greenwire. The rule is also known as the Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) regulation.

“While some environmentalists are hopeful the Supreme Court ruling will leave open the door for the Clean Water rule to be put into effect while court cases are carried out, the Trump administration expects a stay on the rule to be finalized shortly,” The Hill reported.

Environmental activists are worried that Congress will scramble to block the rule.

“There are many appropriations bills that include language to authorize EPA and the Army Corps to withdraw WOTUS ‘without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such a withdrawal,’” Greenwire reported.

Over 70 groups, including the Sierra Club and various water advocacy groups, signed a letter to Congress about the possibility that deregulatory language will be attached to major spending legislation.

Even before the Supreme Court decision, groups claimed that spending legislation was being used to further the Trump administration’s effort to block the Clean Water Rule, which clarified the U.S. EPA’s authority to regulate waterways, according to The Washington Post.

“House and Senate Republicans have inserted language into spending bills aimed at blocking legal challenges to the Trump administration’s effort to repeal a 2015 water protection rule that gave two federal agencies broad leeway in regulating activities that could affect streams and tributaries,” the report said.

The Obama administration framed WOTUS as beneficial to the everyday operations of water managers by clarifying which waterways the federal government can regulate. Opponents, including congressional Republicans and the agriculture industry, argue the rule constitutes government overreach.