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U.S. Supreme Court WOTUS Decision

Federal District Courts have jurisdiction to hear legal challenges to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule after a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision on January 22.  A 12-state coalition, led by the State of North Dakota, won a preliminary injunction against the WOTUS Rule in 2015. The Supreme Court decision upholds North Dakota’s position that District Courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the WOTUS Rule. The decision also reverses a previous ruling that challenges to the WOTUS Rule must be heard in federal appeals courts.

“This is a major victory for North Dakota and our economy,” says Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota Attorney General. “We have argued from the beginning that the District Court here in North Dakota is the proper place for this litigation. It is significant that the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position so we can continue our challenge to this unacceptable federal overreach,” he said in a news release.

The North Dakota Attorney General says he will ask the Federal District Court to resume the State's WOTUS case as soon as possible because the jurisdictional dispute has already taken two years.

In February 2017, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order directing the USEPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to review and then rescind or revise the WOTUS Rule. Critics of the WOTUS Rule say it is contrary to the Congressional intent of the Clean Water Act (CWA), and it infringes on the ability of the States to regulate their own natural resources. The USEPA has said the WOTUS Rule only applies to the types of waters that have historically been covered under the CWA, which does not include most ditches, groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains.