One federal court issued a stay of the WOTUS rule on Friday, challenging the reach sought by the Environmental Protection Agency with the new legislative piece.
The federal court is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Ohio, Cincinnati. The stay issued on Friday with a 2 to 1 vote is another blow to the environmental efforts undertaken under the Obama administration.
Adding to President Obama’s list of environmental policies, the Water of the United States rule or WOTUS comes as an addition to the Clean Water Act. Looking to place more water sources under federal protection and oversight and ensure proper management and reducing pollution, the WOTUS rule has drawn an increasing number of detractors.
The political nexus at play is worrying. Conservatives and 31 states are loudly arguing against the rule which seeks to protect small waterways in the face of a growing threat of pollution. Industry representatives and lobbyists are joining the choir. On the other hand polls show that American citizens, including Conservative-leaning ones favor the implementation of the WOTUS rule nationwide. Environmental and conservation groups are on their side.
However, with legal challenges ahead at every step, it remains unclear just how successful the WOTUS will be when implemented, if at all. As one federal court issued a stay of the WOTUS rule on Friday this means, at least momentarily, that its implementation nationwide is currently halted.
The WOTUS rule has been designed with valuable input from the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the U.S. Corps of Engineers. In relation to the Clean Water Act, two previous decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have left a trail of confusion on which waterways and water sources are specifically targeted. What the WOTUS rule brings is a clarification and a sustained effort to cut pollution in these specific waterways. According to one statement of President Obama, only serious polluters would have to suffer the consequences of the WOTUS rule.
However, industry groups seem to disagree. And courts nationwide, as well as state legislators are helping them win the cause. The basis of their concern is that the WOTUS rule is illegal and provides the Environmental Protection Agency with an unprecedented overreach at the federal level.
As one federal court issued a stay of the WOTUS rule on Friday, the National Federation of Independent Business stated:
“The court very properly acknowledged that the WOTUS rule has created a whirlwind of confusion and that blocking its implementation in every state is the practicable way to resolve the deep legal question of whether it can withstand constitutional muster”.
On the other side of the barricade, environmentalist groups and U.S. citizens alike are questioning the capacity of the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 6th Circuit to issue a stay. At the same time, they deplore the blocking of efforts to provide clean, unpolluted drinking water to 1 in 3 U.S. citizens currently at risk.
The stay issued on Friday is not the last word on the WOTUS rule.
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