GEORGIA – Attorney General Chris Carr has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly published final rule which redefines the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). 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.
“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.”
“As a 7th generation farmer I know firsthand how Washington overreach hurts our agriculture industry, and in Georgia we are not going to stand by and let Joe Biden’s big government mandates hurt our state’s number one industry,” said Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. “This new WOTUS rule puts more burdensome regulations, red-tape, and wasteful bureaucracy on Georgia farmers at time when they can least afford it. 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.”
Most notably, 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.
What’s more, the lawsuit notes how the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rushed to issue the final rule “even though the Supreme Court is expected to issue a key decision on the scope of WOTUS in just a few weeks’ time.”
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last October on Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, a years-long battle over the reach of the Clean Water Act.
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.
Find a copy of the lawsuit.
Previous WOTUS Actions
In 2020, Carr co-led a 23-state coalition in filing a brief in support of the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This rule defined the “Waters of the United States” over which federal regulators can impose permitting and other requirements on farmers, developers, and other landowners across the country. In the brief, Carr and his fellow attorneys general urged the Court to consider the interests of Georgia and the rest of the coalition when deciding a challenge to the rule brought by a separate group of attorneys general led by New York and California.
Carr previously led litigation challenging the 2015 WOTUS Rule on behalf of an 11-state coalition. In part, this rule would have provided the federal government with jurisdiction to implement complex federal mandates over state natural resources. In June 2018, the coalition secured a preliminary injunction that blocked the Obama-era rule from taking effect in Georgia and 10 other states.