On January 22, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that challenges to the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (the “WOTUS Rule” or “Rule”) belong in district court rather than the appellate court. The WOTUS Rule was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to clarify which waters and wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction. Numerous parties challenged the Rule in both federal district courts and circuit courts of appeals. The circuit court actions were consolidated in the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 2016, the Sixth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to hear petitions related to the legality of the Rule and issued a nationwide stay. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court by industry groups who argued that, under the plain text of the Clean Water Act, the district courts were the proper jurisdiction.

In an opinion authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court noted that the Clean Water Act lists seven specific categories of EPA actions that federal courts of appeals have the exclusive power to review and the Rule did not fall into a category on the list. The Court determined that it had “no basis to depart from the [Clean Water Act]’s plain language” despite arguments by the U.S. government (forwarded by both the Obama and Trump Administrations) that the Rule was “functionally related” to categories on the list and that efficiency, national uniformity, and other policy arguments weighed in favor of making the circuit courts of appeals the appropriate jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit, directing the court to dismiss the petitions for review that had been filed.

Because the Supreme Court’s decision was related to jurisdiction and not the merits of the Rule, what does this mean for the Rule’s future?
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The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) over the proposed Aquila Resources Back Forty Mine, arguing that EPA and Corps have failed to take responsibility for reviewing wetland permits for the project. The lawsuit was expected since the Tribe filed a notice

On December 18, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) to solicit input regarding the emissions guidelines limiting greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from existing electric utility generating units (“EGUs”) that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) is considering proposing.

The Clean Power Plan regulations adopted by the Obama administration would have limited GHG emissions by substituting generation from lower-emitting existing natural gas combined cycle units and zero-emitting renewable energy generating capacity.
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Since 2001, Wisconsin law has required a permit to discharge fill into wetlands that do not fall under federal jurisdiction (“nonfederal wetlands”). Of the approximately five million acres of wetlands in Wisconsin, an estimated 10 to 30 percent are nonfederal wetlands.

State lawmakers held hearings on December 21 on proposed legislation, AB547/SB600, which would exempt

The U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed to delay the effective date of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule which clarifies which waters and wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction. According to the agencies, the delay is necessary to help avoid confusion among home builders, contractors, and miners.

The 2015 WOTUS rule has an effective date of August 28, 2015, but
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This week, United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive to end the Obama-era “sue and settle” practice of the agency.  Under the existing practice, environmental and special interest groups sue EPA to try to force the agency to take certain actions, and the agency typically settles those lawsuits by entering into private settlement agreements and public consent decrees.  Those settlements often lead to the promulgation of environmental regulations, what Pruitt calls “the results of collusion with outside groups” that, according to him, takes place behind closed doors and excludes intervenors, interested stakeholders, and affected states from the process.  Pruitt wants to put a stop to the
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As anticipated, on October 10 the EPA signed a proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan rules for existing stationary sources. The proposed rule concludes that the Clean Power Plan exceeds EPA’s authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act by regulating emissions by (among other approaches) substituting generation from lower-emitting existing natural gas combined cycle units and zero-emitting renewable energy generating capacity.

Rather, EPA has now determined that
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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced his intention to act today to sign a proposed rule that would “withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration.” This move by the agency is no surprise, given President Trump’s campaign promises to bring back coal and Pruitt’s lawsuit challenging the rule filed in his capacity as the Oklahoma Attorney General.

The goal of the Clean Power Plan rules is to significantly limit
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Power plant silhouetteEarlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an order granted EPA’s motion to hold the Clean Power Plan litigation in abeyance while EPA reviews the carbon pollution emission guidelines for existing power plants and the standards of performance of new, modified, and reconstructed power plants and, if appropriate, publishes proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules. Review of the rules is required by President Trump’s Executive Order targeting climate change regulation (discussed further here).

The motion for abeyance was opposed by numerous parties, including cities and states; Calpine Corporation and municipal power companies; the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association; and environmental organizations. They argued that
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Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a request for comment soliciting input from the public regarding existing environmental regulations that might be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification consistent with President Trump’s executive order regarding enforcing his regulatory reform agenda.

That order directed federal agencies to form
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