Lawsuit asks court to overturn burdensome ‘Waters Of The United States’ rule.
For the City Times
Attorney General Brad Schimel today announced Wisconsin has joined eight other state Attorneys General in a lawsuit asking a federal court to strike down a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The rule, implemented by the EPA and further enforced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory reach over local streams, lands and farms. Eleven other states have filed a parallel lawsuit.
The rule, known as the “Waters of the United States,” would extend the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ regulatory reach to an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams or any other area where the agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years.
This rule could have dire consequences for homeowners, farmers and other entities by forcing them to navigate a complex federal bureaucracy and obtain costly permits in order to perform everyday tasks like digging ditches, building fences or spraying fertilizers. Failure to comply with this new regulatory scheme could result in substantial fines.
”Wisconsin already has strong clean water regulations and these proposed duplicative regulations will serve only to harm farmers and landowners by substantially increasing costs and delaying permits,” Schimel said. “This overreaching move is yet another example of the EPA exceeding its constitutional authority to the detriment of our state.”
In the complaint filed June 30, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, the Attorneys General of West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin argue the final rule put forward by the EPA and Corps of Engineers violates the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution, and usurps the States’ primary responsibility for the management, protection and care of intrastate waters and lands.
While the Clean Water Act gave the EPA and Corps authority to regulate “navigable waters” – defined as “waters of the United States” – Congress made sure that states would retain their constitutional, sovereign responsibility over non-navigable, intrastate lands and waters. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected the agencies’ attempts to expand their authority (in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States). However, this latest rule written by the two administrative agencies gives them virtually limitless power over these waters.
The complaint asks a federal judge to declare the rule illegal and issue an injunction to prevent the agencies from enforcing it. It also asks the judge to order the agencies to draft a new rule that complies with the law and honors States’ rights.
A copy of the complaint is available at www.doj.state.wi.us/sites/default/files/2015-news/complaint-20150701.pdf.