Supreme Court Stops EPA Scheme for WOTUS Rule
by Shari Dovale
In a unanimous ruling by The Supreme Court this week, it was determined that challenges to the “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS Rule must be filed in federal district courts. This is significant in that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to limit their victims chance for appeal or redress.
It was reported that the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court not to take the case, and argued that the Sixth Circuit should be allowed to consider it.
The written opinion, delivered by Justice Sotomayor, states that challenges must be filed in federal district courts.
Although the jurisdictional question in this case is a discrete issue of statutory interpretation, it unfolds against the backdrop of a complex administrative scheme.
The decision came in National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense.
The Pacific Legal Foundation issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law and for accountability in government,” said James S. Burling, Vice President for Litigation with Pacific Legal Foundation. PLF represents farmers, ranchers and other landowners nationwide who joined this litigation to defend their right to challenge the WOTUS rule. “The EPA’s ‘waters of the United States’ rule may be the most brazen—and lawless—expansion of bureaucratic power in American history. The regulators who imposed it tried to shield it from review by limiting opportunities for the public to bring challenges. The Supreme Court struck a blow for liberty by rejecting this ploy and guaranteeing access to justice for the EPA’s victims.”
Under the terms of the Clean Water Act, people who are harmed by EPA rules like the WOTUS regulation can sue in any federal district court, within six years of the rule’s issuance. But the EPA unilaterally rewrote that provision, decreeing that lawsuits could be filed only in federal courts of appeal. This twisting of the law allowed just 120 days to file WOTUS challenges and concentrated all cases in a single appellate court.
“If the EPA had succeeded in blocking victims of the WOTUS rule from seeking redress, other agencies would have tried similar ploys,” Burling noted. “The Supreme Court’s rejection of the EPA’s power play strengthens everyone’s right to challenge bureaucratic abuses, all across the governmental landscape.”
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