The U.S. District Court in Arizona has recently vacated the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). A federal judge in South Carolina had previously dismissed a similar case back in July. The NWPR was established by the Trump Administration as a means for simplifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez’s ruling was met with frustration from the agricultural industry.
“AFBF is extremely disappointed in the ruling to vacate the Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a press release. “Three courts have previously refused to dismantle the NWPR, including last month when a federal court in South Carolina refused a similar request from plaintiff groups. Unfortunately, this Arizona court simply accepted the plaintiffs’ assertions as true and did something that no other court has done in vacating the NWPR.”
The Biden Administration had previously announced plans to replace the NPWR earlier in the year. After a ruling by the U.S. District Court in South Carolina, the plan was for the NWPR to remain in place while a new rule was developed. However, Judge Márquez determined that leaving the NWPR intact would cause “serious environmental harm.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers are working to develop a new rule to replace the NWPR. Industry groups asserted that vacating the NWPR would create significant uncertainty in regard to water regulations. Judge Márquez said that regulatory uncertainty was “insufficient to justify remand without vacatur.” Disappointed by the decision, agricultural organizations will be evaluating the next course of action to try and bring some certainty to the water rulemaking process.
“The Navigable Waters Protection Rule limited federal overreach and provided regulatory certainty to our nation’s cattle producers,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager. “The NWPR was a solution to the far overreaching 2015 WOTUS rule but yesterday’s court decision adds further confusion to an issue that has been complicated by decades of activist-driven litigation.”