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It's raining WOTUS lawsuits

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I’ve seen a quote before that reads, “…once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” This comes from Branda Schoepp, a Canadian farm girl and inspirational speaker, whose grandfather used to tell her this.

Well, guess what—EPA is in need of a lot of lawyers right about now, mostly because of farmers. Recently, a coalition of a dozen industry groups—from agriculture to manufacturers to mining—filed a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers over the Waters of the U.S. rule. I’m sure if you’ve been reading this column for a while, WOTUS rings a bell. The finalized WOTUS rule was published in the Federal Register at the end of June and is set to take effect on Aug. 28.

The groups, which filed the complaint in a Texas federal district court, say the finalized WOTUS rule goes further than the purposes of the Clean Water Act. According to the coalition, the WOTUS rule is a broad overreach by the federal government on land, which is unconstitutional.

The groups include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute, American Road and Transportation Builders, Leading Builders of America, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Mining Association, National Pork Producers Council and Public Lands Council.

In the National Pork Producers Council’s press release, it noted this lawsuit was filed “on the 239th anniversary of the Second Continental Congress declaring the fledgling United States should be free from an oppressive, oversized government.” How appropriate.

Now, one could argue this is mostly just a bunch of farmers complaining about EPA, which would be no surprise. But, just days earlier, 27 states filed comparable suits against the EPA. That’s over half the country.

These lawsuits claim the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers surpassed their authority in determining what can be regulated as a WOTUS. The Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi lawsuit label the WOTUS rule “an unconstitutional and impermissible expansion of federal power over the states and their citizens and property owners.” Other states grouped together and filed lawsuits in different districts throughout the country.

Congress may take a different approach to the WOTUS issue. Already introduced are separate bills in the House and Senate to kill the WOTUS rule. The House bill was passed but not by a veto-proof majority. The Senate bill has yet to come up for a vote.

There is also a provision in the appropriations bill to simply take away the money that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would use to implement and enforce the rule, which is a more likely outcome.

I wonder if EPA anticipated this much backlash—not only from agriculture but a variety of other sectors—when crafting this rule?

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.

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