The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule issued by the Obama administration in 2015 quickly attracted scores of opponents and legal challenges, one of which the Ohio Chamber joined due to the negative effects of the rule on businesses and landowners alike. Any body of water considered to be a WOTUS adds significant regulatory delays and challenges to commercial activity.
The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in one legal challenge that federal district courts, rather than circuit courts of appeal, are the proper venue to lodge challenges to the WOTUS rule. As a consequence of the ruling, a previous order blocking implementation of the rule nationwide will expire, though the rule is unlikely to come into force.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has taken two steps to address the legal challenges and the substantial business impact of a changed WOTUS definition. The first added a 2020 applicability date to the original 2015 action, giving agencies several years to more fully consider the negative consequences. The second action is an ongoing rulemaking to outright rescind the Obama-era rule.
The moves by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps to restore federalism to the definition of WOTUS is a step in the right direction in allowing states to encourage economic growth while continuing to protect the environment.