What happened: This week’s historic Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision to define the limits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Water Act is a tremendous victory for America’s pork producers. For nearly two decades, NPPC played a lead role in fighting against attempts to expand the federal government’s power over private land.
The Sackett v. EPA case challenged the defined Water of the United States (WOTUS). The 9-0 SCOTUS ruling was decisive and spelled the end of the Obama/Biden WOTUS rule.
The lowdown on what the decision stated:
- Significant-Nexus: The judges were unanimous – 9-0 – on eliminating the use of significant-nexus. This is the foundation of the Obama/Biden WOTUS rules.
- WOTUS Decision: The Clean Water Act’s (CWA) use of “waters” encompasses only those relatively permanent, which are standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographical features that are described in ordinary parlance as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes.
- Wetlands: As for wetlands, the CWA extends to only those wetlands that are as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States. This requires the party asserting jurisdiction over adjacent wetlands to establish first, that the adjacent body of water constitutes WOTUS (i.e., a relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters) and second, that the wetland has a continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the water ends and the wetland begins. Four justices (Kavanaugh, Kagan, Sotomayor and Jackson) thought this went too far.
- Implications on 2023 WOTUS Rule: The Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency case addresses the pre-2015 WOTUS definition, not the 2023 rule. As a result, the 2023 rule remains in the books, but functionally, EPA and the Corps cannot enforce it.
- Return Power to the States: Most amici briefs argued to push authority away from the federal government, leaving many to wonder whether this would create a vacuum in regulations over pollution. Parts of our broad coalition filed a brief arguing the inverse – explicitly advocating that the states are best positioned to regulate features within their borders and already do so.
NPPC’s take: “The Supreme Court’s historical decision to define the limits of EPA authority under the Clean Water Act is a tremendous victory for America’s pork producers who have played a leading role for almost two decades in opposing the agency’s heavy-handed efforts to micromanage our farms. This ruling is a clear punctuation point after decades of attempts by activists and the EPA to expand the federal government’s power and control over private land. Farmers are the originators of conservation and are taught the key to preservation is to protect our natural resources. We can now proceed with certainty to use all our conservation assets to best farm our land so we can deliver healthy food to our customers for generations to come.” – Duane Stateler, NPPC vice president and Ohio pork producer