The Biden administration intends to update its “waters of the United States” regulation, which determines the upstream reach of anti-pollution laws, by Sept. 1, said the EPA on Wednesday. The revised WOTUS rule will reflect the recent Supreme Court decision that reduces federal protection of wetlands, it said.
Mark Squillace, a professor of Natural Resources Law at the University of Colorado Law School, spoke with FERN's Ag Insider about how a recent Supreme Court decision will affect the nation's wetlands. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (No paywall)
In a decision that will narrow federal protection of wetlands, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the 1972 clean water law applies only to marshy areas with “a continuous surface connection” to streams, oceans, rivers, or lakes. “Today’s ruling is a profound win for property rights and the constitutional separation of powers,” said the Pacific Legal Foundation, which argued the case for a couple blocked from building a home in northern Idaho. (No paywall)
The meat industry encouraged farm-state lawmakers on Wednesday to legislatively override the Supreme Court ruling that gives states the power to set animal welfare standards and regulate meat sales. The Supreme Court decision upholding California’s Proposition 12 “opens the door to chaos,” said Bryan Burns of the North American Meat Institute.
In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California law that regulates the treatment of sows and other farmed animals and prevents the sale of meat products from other states that do not meet its requirements. The Humane Society of America has called it “the strongest law in the world addressing animal confinement,” while farm interests claim that it interferes with interstate commerce protected by the U.S. Constitution. (No paywall)
Stepping ahead of a pending Supreme Court ruling, the Biden administration spelled out through a new regulation the upstream reach of water pollution laws, saying it would assure safe drinking water for Americans "while supporting agriculture, local economies and downstream communities." Farm and home-builder groups, who helped stall an Obama-era definition of the "waters of the United States" (WOTUS), said the Biden WOTUS rule also was a regulatory nightmare built on murky interpretations of the law.
For the second time in a week, the Supreme Court rejected Bayer's attempts to shield itself from lawsuits alleging that its Roundup weedkiller is carcinogenic. Bayer said it "is not surprised" by the decision on Monday and pointed to the possibility of a change in the legal environment in its favor.
With California's Proposition 12 animal welfare law set to go into effect on Jan. 1, two farm groups asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the voter-approved standards as an unconstitutional burden on farmers and consumers everywhere. Prop 12 bans the sale of pork products that are produced outside the state but do not match California's rules.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear a meat industry challenge to California's voter-approved Proposition 12, which requires farmers to give sows, veal calves, and egg-laying chickens more room to move about and bans shipments of pork, veal, and eggs produced outside of California if the animals are housed in conditions that do not meet California's standards.
On a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California labor law on Wednesday that allowed union organizers onto an agricultural employer's property to enlist farmworkers to join the union. The 1975 law was a legacy of Cesar Chavez, a founder of the United Farm Workers union.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the landmark California law that says table eggs shipped into the state for sale must come from farms that give chickens enough room to stand, turn around, and fully extend their wings.
The Supreme Court assured prison time for Austin DeCoster, once believed to be the largest U.S. egg producer, and his son, Peter, by refusing a petition filed by their attorneys for a review of their sentences.
Although President Trump has signed an executive order to roll back the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the Supreme Court decided that it will continue hearing a legal challenge of the 2015 EPA rule. Justices denied a Justice Department request to halt work on the case while the administration decides whether to rewrite or rescind the rule, said E&E News.
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has a mixed record when it comes to rulings on public lands and environmental issues, says Fortune, based on an Associated Press review of Gorsuch’s case history. "I think that his record, although the number of cases is quite limited, shows that at times it has led to decisions that one might consider environmentally favorable, and about an equal number of times it has led to decisions some might think are environmentally unfavorable," said Donald Kochan, associate dean and professor at Chapman University's Dale E. Fowler School of Law.
The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to finally hear a lawsuit between Texas and New Mexico over water rights to the Rio Grande, says The Texas Tribune. Three years ago, the Lone Star state alleged that New Mexico farmers were taking more than their fair share of the river’s water. Now a court-appointed special master, Gregory Grismal, has released a 273-page report recommending that the court ignore New Mexico’s request to drop the suit.