Supreme Court Ends Significant Nexus in WOTUS as Cattlemen Cheer

Listen to Ron Hays talk with Mary-Thomas Hart about the Supreme Court’s WOTUS ruling.

On May 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of landowner rights in the Sackett v. EPA ruling over the scope of the EPA’s regulatory authority regarding what waters constitute a Waters of the United States.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is talking with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Counsel, Mary-Thomas Hart, about what this ruling will mean for the beef industry.

“It is an exciting day here at NCBA and I think that for landowners across the country,” Hart said. “In a 9-0 holding, the Supreme Court found in favor of the Sackett family, and killed the significant nexus test which has kind of been the ‘burr under our saddle.’ It has caused a lot of problems for landowners across the country, and we are happy to see that test go away.”

Cattle producers should be very excited, Hart said, and breathing a sigh of relief regarding this ruling.

“The latest news in the WOTUS universe has been related to the 2023 Biden rule, which kind of has a foundation in the significant nexus test,” Hart said. “So, the holding against the significant nexus test is certainly, at a minimum, going to require the Biden administration to pull their 2023 definition back for some serious reconsideration and revisions.”

In the ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the Federal Government, EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers had overreached their jurisdiction over the Sackett’s property.

“The goal of eliminating the significant nexus test is to provide more regulatory certainty,” Hart said. “NCBA wrote an amicus brief to Supreme Court highlighting a lot of issues with the significant nexus test, one of those issues is the criminal liability attached to the Clean Water Act and attached to violations of the Clean Water Act.”

Hart said NCBA argued to the court that there is no way to constitutionally hold someone liable for a violation of the Clean Water Act if they are not aware they are violating it.

“The significant nexus test was so broad and so vague that someone could violate the clean water act without realizing it,” Hart said. “That is a piece of our amicus brief that the court adopted and included in their opinion, so we were really excited to see that.”

The bottom line, Hart said, is that the new Supreme Court ruling provides much more regulatory certainty for regulators and America’s farmers and ranchers. In Hart’s conversation with Hays, she also gave a timeline of how the WOTUS definitions have changed over the years through different administrations.

“In the last eight years, we have had three different regulatory definitions of WOTUS, really all hinging on how to apply the significant nexus test,” Hart said. “That is something this court recognized.”

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