Federal Judge: Georgia and Nine Other States May Ignore Obama-era ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule

by Nyamekye Daniel


A federal judge has blocked the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States rule from taking effect in Georgia and nine other states while it is being revised.

U.S. Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood (pictured above) ruled this week that the Obama administration overstepped its authority when it modified the Clean Water Act and violated procedures when it implemented the rule, better known as WOTUS.

“… It substantially interferes with an area of traditional state authority without a clear indication from Congress allowing such interference in the CWA [Clean Water Act],” Wood wrote.

The CWA regulates the pollution of the “waters of the U.S,” which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army. The act makes it “unlawful to discharge any pollutant” “into navigable waters” without a permit.

The judge found the WOTUS rule’s expansion of the jurisdiction of navigable waters was too vast.

The rule added three categories of waters to the CWA: tributaries; adjacent waters; and significant nexus.

WOTUS defines tributaries as any water “that contributes flow, either directly or through another water” to a primary water source. Examples of tributaries include rivers or streams.

Adjacent waters are located next to or in the vicinity of a primary water source. Examples include wetlands and ponds.

Significant nexus refers to “when any single function or combination of functions performed by the water, alone or together with similarly situated waters in the region, contributes significantly to the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the nearest” primary water.

It could account for places that only hold temporary water like floodplains or plant nursery areas.

Critics of the rule say the definitions are too broad.

“The 2015 rule defines terms such as ‘tributary’ and ‘adjacent’ in ways that make it impossible for farmers and ranchers to know whether the specific ditches, ephemeral drains or low areas on their land will be deemed ‘waters of the U.S.,’” the American Farm Bureau Federation said in a statement.

“The court ruling is clear affirmation of exactly what we have been saying for the past five years,” Ellen Steen, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s general counsel, said. “The EPA badly misread Supreme Court precedent.”

Several states have fought the regulations since they were implemented in 2015. The EPA and the Department of the Army are finalizing new rules that would clarify the water lines.

Georgia led the collation that included Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“We are proud to have fought for this relief, and we look forward to reforms that will permanently relieve farmers and landowners of the unnecessary burdens that the 2015 WOTUS Rule created,” Attorney General Chris Carr said.

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Nyamekye Daniel is a staff writer for The Center Square.
Photo “Judge Lisa Godbey Wood” by the University of Georgia.








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