BATON ROUGE – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently issued a nationwide stay temporarily prohibiting the enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA), much to the approval of Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain.
The Clean Water Act, also called the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, became effective on Aug. 28, and is an attempt made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to extend federal authority over certain waterways previously regulated by the state.
The federal rule has been met with opposition across Louisiana due to its far-reaching implications and because it increases federal power over local waterways.
“We have heard from thousands of agriculture producers in Louisiana on how the WOTUS could require them to get government permits for activities that have been considered a normal part of farming," Strain said. "Louisiana farmers typically follow 'best management practices' and are stewards of the land. They earn their living by working their land and want to protect it. This rule, which is intended to keep streams and wetlands clean, is unnecessary and over burdensome."
The court granted a stay to the issue while it determines whether challenges to the rule should be brought before district or circuit courts. Parties in opposition to the rule, including Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and 18 other states, argue that challenges should be heard in district courts.
The majority of Sixth Circuit judges concluded that opponents of the WOTUS rule have high chances of successfully justifying the stay, should it be challenged. The rule has already been stayed in 13 states based on “the substantial possibility of success on the merits of their claims,” and a nationwide stay serves the purpose of maintaining national uniformity.
This issue may be appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.