The Biden administration made only minimal changes to its “waters of the United States” regulation to comply with the Supreme Court’s new and stricter definition of wetlands, and that will perpetuate litigation over the Clean Water Act, said West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on Wednesday.
The Biden administration removed federal protection from an estimated half of U.S. wetlands in a regulation unveiled a week ago to comply with the Supreme Court decision shrinking the upstream reach of water pollution laws. But agricultural and construction groups said the regulation was "legally vulnerable" because the administration, in their view, did not fully carry out the ruling.
Although the Biden administration says it will update its “waters of the United States” regulation by Sept. 1, it might have to act a bit faster than that under a motion filed in federal court in Texas. The motion asks the court to discard the Biden regulation entirely “and request that the agencies promulgate a new rule within 45 days.”
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 Biden administration is turning a cold shoulder to biofuels and rural America by encouraging the use of electric vehicles, said farm-state Republicans during a complaint-filled House hearing with EPA administrator Michael Regan on Wednesday. Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon pointed to the so-called WOTUS rule on wetlands protections and declared, “Any goodwill the administration has built with farmers and ranchers is gone.”
Less than four months ago, the Biden administration unveiled “a durable definition” of the upstream reach of clean water laws across the country — a so-called waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation. With a ruling on Wednesday, federal judges have enjoined implementation of the rule in 26 of the 50 states while they hear lawsuits that would void the regulation.
One of USDA's largest land stewardship programs "allocates too little funding to environmentally sensitive lands in one of the most important agricultural areas in the country," said the Environmental Working Group on Wednesday. In a report, the EWG said the cost-sharing Environmental Quality Incentives Program should be reformed to make climate change its primary purpose.
The Senate joined the House on Wednesday in voting to overturn the Biden administration’s “waters of the United States” regulation, which spells out the upstream reach of water pollution laws. The White House said earlier this month that President Biden would veto the Republican-sponsored resolution of disapproval if it reached his desk.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a new Mississippi River restoration project, starting with a 39-mile stretch near Memphis, Tennessee, that could help save threatened and endangered aquatic animals. The agency still needs to secure $50 million in funding.(No paywall)
In a long-shot tactic, Republicans in the Senate and House pressed on Thursday for a vote to overturn the Biden administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which spells out the upstream reach of water pollution laws. It was the third WOTUS rule to be issued in less than a decade. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in coming weeks on an Idaho case that would greatly limit federal protection of wetlands.
Seventeen farm, construction, and mining groups filed suit in federal court to overturn the Biden administration’s definition of the upstream reach of water pollution laws. They argued that the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule was “so opaque, uncertain, and all-encompassing” that no one could confidently know its limits.
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.
The Supreme Court should restrict federal regulation of wetlands to marshy areas with a surface connection to a waterway — a dramatic reduction in coverage but a standard that would be easier to understand than the "significant nexus" test now in use, said a lawyer for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation on Monday. Two justices said the court's decision, in a case involving a home site in Idaho, could rewrite wetlands regulations nationwide.
Rewetting drained coastal evergreen shrub bogs in the Southeast that were once used for farming could make a small but significant contribution to reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, according to a recent study. The bogs, known as pocosins, can absorb and hold extraordinary amounts of CO2 because they contain antimicrobial compounds called phenolics that prevent the waterlogged peat from decaying rapidly, even during times of drought.
After a near-record year of drought, California received some relief this week from torrential rains, the result of an atmospheric river hitting a bomb cyclone. The storms snuffed out the Dixie Fire, which has been burning in the northern Sierras since July, and put an end to Northern California’s grueling fire season. What the rains didn't do was end the drought — or the water restrictions faced by many of the state's farmers. (No paywall)
Shortly after telling senators that he wanted a "long-term, durable solution," EPA administrator Michael Regan said on Wednesday that the Biden administration would write a new definition of the upstream reach of clean water laws. The process would include repeal of the 2020 Trump-era rule that replaced 2015 Obama water regulations the farm sector decried as federal overreach.