Another SCOTUS win for property rights

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Mud puddles like this will fall under EPA jurisdiction due to the WOTUS rule. Photo Ccredit: peasap on Flickr

Since it’s implementation the Clean Water Act has developed a reputation as being ambiguous and arbitrarily implemented, and has plagued property owners and agriculture producers across the U.S.  The EPA is now attempting to expand the scope of that Act through the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which would place all bodies of waters—including puddles and stock ponds—under federal regulatory jurisdiction.

But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has added a degree of clarity to the Clean Water Act, and more importantly an opinion by Justice Kennedy in the case signals good news on a multi-state challenge to the WOTUS rule.

One June 1st, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow landowners the ability to challenge in Court the EPA’s Clean Water Act “jurisdictional determinations,” which are used by landowners to determine if their project falls under Clean Water Act jurisdiction before going through costly permitting.  The government contended that jurisdictional determinations did not constitute final agency action, and therefore landowners should not be able to sue for relief in Court.  The Court unanimously ruled against the EPA in the case, enabled landowners like Andy Johnson to successfully challenge the EPA.

Senator Tester needs to take a stand against WOTUS

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Photo credit: Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation, CC

By Deanna Robbins

Imagine a scenario where Montana farmers and ranchers have to apply to a federal bureaucrat in order to plow a field, or build a fence, or move cattle from one pasture to another.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is. But this crazy notion has made its way from the radical environmentalists’ wish list into an actual rule proposal from President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency. If they are successful with this rule, known as Waters of the United States (or WOTUS), the EPA will be given expanded regulatory authority over any land use and farming practices near any body of water, down to prairie potholes and ephemeral streams (those that only have water during heavy rains).

With this jurisdictional rule there would be no limit on EPA’s determination of what constitutes a “waters of the United States,” giving EPA the means to usurp all state authority.

Waters of the US rule is about control, not conservation

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It’s safe to say all Montanans enjoy our lakes, rivers and streams and wish to ensure that they remain healthy for years to come. No group values our water more than Montana’s agriculture producers. They’re the primary stewards of our water and their conservation efforts benefit all Montanans.

That could all change, however, if the EPA gets their way. Their newly proposed “Waters of the United States” rule would flip our water conservation model, ultimately turning what landowners now consider an asset into a huge liability. History has shown when that happens, our environment pays the price.

Let’s be clear on what this rule is about. It’s an attempt to expand the power of the federal bureaucracy to control what happens on private land. This rule is not about protecting water resources—in fact it would have the opposite effect. But the outcome for the environment doesn’t matter for supporters of this rule, they just want more control.