Appeals Court Halts EPA Clean Water Rule Implementation Nationwide

Date: October 12, 2015

Court Holds Enactment Until Ruling On Jurisdiction Over Pending Legal Challenges

In a victory against the burdensome regulatory efforts of the EPA, on Friday the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling voted to halt implementation of a provision of the federal Clean Water Act that “attempts to clarify which small streams, wetlands and other waterways the government can shield from pollution and development,” the AP reported. Though US District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo, ND previously “halted the rule’s implementation in 13 central and Western states shortly before it took effect in August,” at the time “he declined to extend his order to additional states.” However, the new 6th circuit panel ruling found that “delaying implementation nationwide ‘temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new rule and whether they will survive legal testing.’” This latest ruling was hailed by opponents of the EPA provision, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who said, “I am encouraged that the judicial branch has blocked implementation of an egregious regulatory scheme that dooms landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers to a regulatory and economic hell.” The Business Journals reported that opponents of the EPA rule “say it’s so broad that it covers certain types of ditches, ponds and streams that only flow when it rains.” In their view, the EPA had been making it “more difficult for property owners to make minor improvements” while “interfer[ing] with local land-use decisions.”

What Happens Next

The ruling is only a temporary halt to the EPA provision, the AP noted. However, the provision won’t be implemented while the court is deciding whether or not it has jurisdiction. So far “more than half the states have filed legal challenges” against the EPA mandate, meaning uncertainty will continue as to whether or not the EPA can ever enforce its Clean Water Act provision.

What This Means For Small Businesses

The Hill reported that on Friday the NFIB praised the ruling. In a statement, legal foundation executive director Karen Harned said, “Small businesses everywhere this morning are breathing a sigh of relief. 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.”

Additional Reading

Reuters and the Washington Times covered the 6th circuit court’s ruling, and in an editorial the Wall Street Journal applauded the court’s decision.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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