The Trump administration has worked virtually nonstop since the inauguration to dismantle some of the environmental campaigns launched by Barack Obama, and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court joined in.
The justices ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot provide a hedge of protection preventing courts from reviewing its actions by requiring such appeals be heard only in some courts.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law and for accountability in government,” said James S. Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
His organization worked with farmers, ranchers and other landowners nationwide fighting the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule.
The policy vastly expanded the federal government’s claim to authority over any water, even ditches and puddles.
“The EPA’s ‘waters of the United States’ rule may be the most brazen – and lawless – expansion of bureaucratic power in American history. The regulators who imposed it tried to shield it from review by limiting opportunities for the public to bring challenges. The Supreme Court struck a blow for liberty by rejecting this ploy and guaranteeing access to justice for the EPA’s victims,” Burling said.
The decision came in the National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense case.
Explained PLF: “Under the terms of the Clean Water Act, people who are harmed by EPA rules like the WOTUS regulation can sue in any federal district court, within six years of the rule’s issuance. But the EPA unilaterally rewrote that provision, decreeing that lawsuits could be filed only in federal courts of appeal. This twisting of the law allowed just 120 days to file WOTUS challenges and concentrated all cases in a single appellate court.”
Burling said that if the EPA “had succeeded in blocking victims of the WOTUS rule from seeking redress, other agencies would have tried similar ploys.’
“The Supreme Court’s rejection of the EPA’s power play strengthens everyone’s right to challenge bureaucratic abuses, all across the governmental landscape,” he said.
Under the “waters” rule, the federal government claimed the right to regulate control “nearly every pond, ditch and puddle in the nation.”
It asserted that “every tributary of a ‘navigable water,’ isolated pools and potholes, the 100-year flood plain covering millions of stream miles, and, on a case-by-case basis, any water within 4,000 feet of a tributary” were subject to government control.
The plan gave the federal government authority to impose $37,500 a day fines on offenders.
Hal Quinn, a spokesman for the manufacturers, said, “Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision provides much needed clarity and affirms our longstanding position that the Clean Water Act empowers the federal district courts, not the courts of appeals, to initially review legal challenges to the Waters of the U.S. Rule.”
He said the victory, “coupled with the administration’s actions in proposing to repeal the rule and seek input on how to properly define ‘waters of the U.S.,’ puts us one step closer to addressing this deeply problematic rule and the confusion it has created.”
The court ruling almost was unneeded.
WND reported last year that under President Trump’s instructions, the EPA began rolling back the Waters of the United States rule.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made the policy shift official, saying, “We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.”
He added: “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.,’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”
Robert J. Smith, a senior fellow in environmental policy at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said the Obama power grab was a distortion of what Congress intended.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Robert J. Smith: