The Republican Governors Association (RGA) called on the Biden administration to delay implementation of the revised Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule until the Supreme Court rules this summer in a case pertaining to the Clean Water Act (CWA).
In a letter, RGA members argued implementing the most recent revision would create new bureaucratic hurdles at the state level only for the court’s decision to potentially render them moot. The upcoming decision, Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, will determine whether most wetlands and streams can be considered waters of the United States under the CWA.
“We call into question the timing and necessity of the rule with the Court’s upcoming Sackett decision which is expected by June of this year. That opinion could significantly impact the final rule and its implementation,” the letter says. “To change the rule multiple times in six months is an inefficient and wasteful use of State and federal resources and will impose an unnecessary strain on farmers, builders, and every other impacted sector of the American economy.”
The EPA issued a 2015 WOTUS rule defining the waterways protected under the CWA, while in 2020 the Trump administration issued its own rule substantially narrowing the protections. In late 2022, the Biden administration issued a WOTUS rule that largely split the difference between the two, with Radhika Fox, the EPA’s top water official, calling the new regulation a “balanced, middle-of-the-road rule.”
The Sackett case, brought by two Idaho homeowners after they were told a wetlands permit was required for construction on their property, has caused alarm among conservationists, who have warned it could be an opportunity for a right-leaning court to further abridge EPA authority. The court previously curtailed the EPA’s powers last summer, in a decision tossing a rule that outlined the required transition to renewable energy for fossil fuel-burning power plants.
The Hill has reached out to the White House and EPA for comment.