Energy & Environment

Supreme Court to hear case concerning Obama water rule

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case over a specific issue arising from President Obama’s Clean Water Rule — the fight over the proper federal court venue for challenging the rule.

The case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the 2015 regulation, under which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers asserted jurisdiction over small waterways like ponds and streams. It is also known as the Waters of the United States rule.

The dispute may soon become moot, since President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office in a week, has pledged to repeal the regulation at issue.

{mosads}In February 2016, a fractured Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati, ruled that it, and not lower federal district courts, has the authority to be the first court to hear the lawsuits from industry groups and states that say the rule goes too far.

But the industry groups involved, led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), say that under the Clean Water Act, lower district courts should first hear the challenges, which can then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

“This recurring jurisdictional issue has divided the circuits, wasted judicial and party resources, and delayed the resolution of important rule challenges,” the NAM wrote to the Supreme Court in October, asking it to rule that district courts ought to hear the cases first.

The Clean Water Act lets circuit courts hear lawsuits first only if the cases challenge a federal government limit on a pollutant discharge or a federal permit decision.

The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court not to take the case, and argued that the Sixth Circuit should be allowed to consider it, because its February 2016 decision “is consistent with this court’s precedents, the decisions of other court of appeals, and Congress’s purpose in authorizing direct court of appeals review.”

The Sixth Circuit Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments in its case, but it plans to once the briefing process is complete in March.

Tags Clean Water Rule Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Supreme Court Waters of the United States

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