U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads effort to overturn Waters of the U.S. rule
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A new federal wetlands rule that helps protect water quality and important wildlife habitat will face a federal court challenge from groups representing some of the country’s biggest polluters.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Portland Cement Association last week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeking to overturn the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule.
The groups claim the new regulations “dramatically expand the areas regulated under the Clean Water Act,” which isn’t true at all. In reality, the rule was developed after a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions left many important wetlands unprotected, requiring the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop new guidelines.
The rule restores protection to some wetlands that were protected before the Supreme Court decisions, but leaves plenty of exemptions and loopholes for agriculture and industry.
The industrial groups face a high hurdle in their legal challenge. They’ll have to prove that the federal government made an arbitrary and capricious decision, or that the rule-making process somehow violated federal requirements, which will be hard to do, given the extensive public involvement process used to develop the new wetlands regulations.
In a press release, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired a laundry list of flawed and inaccurate assertions about the rule, even claiming that the federal agencies “sidestepped the U.S. Constitution.”
The lawsuit alleges that the rule disrupts the careful balance Congress set forth in the Clean Water Act, which gives the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to regulate “navigable waters,” but specifically preserves the primary role of the States in planning the development and use of land and water resources.
The lawsuit also claims the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t study the economic impacts of the new rule carefully enough. Read the full formal legal complaint here.