Ag News

Supreme Court reverses lower court ruling on WOTUS

by Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on May 25, 2023 at 0:00 AM

On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Sackett v. EPA in a unanimous ruling.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court opinion, which notes that the Clean Water Act “extends only to those wetlands that are as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States.”

The decision continues a series of rulings striking down the EPA’s latest WOTUS rule, which was to take effect March 20. Courts in Texas and North Dakota halted the rule in a total of 26 states, including Georgia.

“AFBF appreciates the Supreme Court justices for their careful consideration of the implications of Sackett v. EPA. The EPA clearly overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by restricting private property owners from developing their land despite being far from the nearest navigable water,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “The justices respect private property rights. It’s now time for the Biden administration to do the same and rewrite the Waters of the United States Rule. Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with, but they deserve a rule that provides clarity and doesn’t require a team of attorneys to properly care for their land.”

The court dismissed the EPA’s assertion that its jurisdiction could include wetlands near covered waters of the United States even if they are separated from those waters by dry land.

“This interpretation is inconsistent with the text and structure of the CWA,” Alito wrote.

The court required Congress to “enact exceedingly clear language if it wishes to significantly alter the balance between federal and state power and the power of the government over private property.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson issued a statement praising the ruling, calling it “a victory for America's farmers, ranchers, and land owners. The decision reaffirms the rights of property owners and provides long-needed clarity to rural America.”

To read the court’s opinion, click here.

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