A host of organizations, including the Texas Farm Bureau, recently challenged a ruling that would expand the scope of influence of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ control of the “waters of the U.S.” in a federal district court in Galveston.
The parties contend that the ruling grants the EPA and the Corps broad control of farmland use, and goes beyond what Congress intended in the Clean Water Act. The finalized WOTUS rule was published in the Federal Register at the end of June and is set to take effect on August 28.
“This is an astonishing overreach of federal regulatory power,” TFB President Russell Boening said. “It’s clear Congress never intended EPA’s regulatory power to extend beyond truly navigable waters.”
The EPA claims that the ruling was made in an effort to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, and that these worries were nonsensical. But while many legal teams are racing to figure out the actual impact of the ruling on their respective industry, outside observers see the issue at the heart of the concern.
“No land or water is beyond the reach of the federal government, never mind the traditional understanding of private property or state and local control of land use,” former U.S. Representative Larry Combest (R-Texas) said in a statement. “Farmers, ranchers, dairymen, and others, on and off the farm, are in a widespread panic with the finalization of this rule because not only does it allow the EPA onto their land, but it throws the gate wide open to environmental group-led citizen lawsuits that promise to carry the rule’s reach beyond what even the EPA had envisioned.”
Texas farmers are not the only ones at odds with the ruling. Nationally, 27 states have filed comparable suits against the EPA. 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.”
The Republican-led Congress may have one solution for farmers and other industry leaders. Bills that would kill the WOTUS ruling have already been introduced in each chamber, and the House Bill has already been passed. The Senate Bill has yet to come up for a vote. In addition, there is also a provision in the appropriations bill that would take away the funding for enforcement of the ruling, which some believe to be a likely outcome.