MACON, Ga. — On Feb. 16, Georgia joined 23 other states in filing a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly published final rule, which redefines the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who is co-leading the suit, is joined by 23 other attorneys general in asking a federal court to vacate the WOTUS rule and declare it unlawful.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, Eastern Division.
“For years, we have continued to be at the forefront in the fight to protect our farmers and other private landowners from this costly and complex federal takeover, and this lawsuit is no different,” said Carr. “Once again, the EPA has published a rule that extends its authority far beyond what Congress intended and the Constitution allows, and hardworking Georgians will feel the burden. This is entirely unacceptable, and we will keep pushing back to preserve our state’s traditional role in looking after our land and water resources.”
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper blasted the rule as burdensome and wasteful.
“This new WOTUS rule puts more burdensome regulations, red tape and wasteful bureaucracy on Georgia farmers at a time when they can least afford it,” said Harper. “As agriculture commissioner, I will keep fighting for sensible regulation, lower-costs, better trade deals, and policies that empower Georgia farmers and families and look forward to putting a stop to this disastrous rule change.”
The new WOTUS rule redefines “navigable waters” to include ponds, certain streams, ditches, and other bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, as determined by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to the coalition, the flawed and unlawful rule will affect farmers who may need to get permission from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to fill or dredge wetlands or waterways, depending on whether those features fall under the federal government’s purview. Developers, miners and other property owners wishing to make use of their land will face federal government regulations, too.
The lawsuit also notes how the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rushed to issue the final rule rather than wait for a Supreme Court ruling on the scope of WOTUS. The Supreme Court heard arguments last October on Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, a years-long battle over the reach of the Clean Water Act. The court’s opinion is expected in early 2023.
In their lawsuit, the attorneys general indicate that “if the final rule is left in place, then ranchers, farmers, miners, homebuilders, and other landowners across the country will struggle to undertake even the simplest of activities on their own property without fear of drawing the ire of the federal government.”
“Landowning Americans of all stripes will thus be left with a choice: (a) fight their way through an expensive and lengthy administrative process to obtain complex jurisdictional determinations and permits or (b) face substantial civil and criminal penalties. The Final Rule’s ambiguous environmental benefits do not justify any of this,” according to the lawsuit.
Along with co-leaders West Virginia, Iowa and North Dakota, the following states have also joined in filing the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota (Eastern Division): Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.
Georgia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation are opposed to the new WOTUS rule that the EPA and Army Corps finalized Dec. 29, 2022 and published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18. AFBF and 16 other business and agriculture advocacy groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Southern Texas on Jan. 18 saying that the new rule exceeds the scope of the Clean Water Act.
–Georgia Farm Bureau