Last Thursday, the South Carolina District Court reinstated the Obama-era definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) in roughly half the country, furthering the ambiguity in the never-ending saga over how to define WOTUS under the Clean Water Act. South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, et. al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et. al., No. 2:18-cv-00330, at *14 (D.S.C. Aug. 16, 2018). In its decision, the court invalidated the Trump Administration’s Executive Order suspending the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule (the “Suspension Order”).

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Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposed delaying implementation of the rule defining the term “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) for two years. This is one of many moving pieces involving the WOTUS rule at this time, and another step by the agencies under the Trump administration towards maintaining the status quo and ensuring the 2015 rule is not implemented.
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Consistent with President Trump’s February 28, 2017 Executive Order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a joint proposal representing the first step of a two-part plan to implement a more narrow “waters of the U.S.” or “WOTUS” definition. The first step, published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2017, seeks to repeal the 2015 WOTUS rule, and replace prior rules.
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On December 11, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a jurisdictional determination approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is a final agency action ripe for judicial review.  The decision will resolve a circuit split between the Eighth and Fifth Circuits. In U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs v. Hawkes Co. Inc. et al., the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the petitioner property owners and determined that courts have jurisdiction to review Corps’ jurisdictional determinations (JDs) about whether a body of water is subject to its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Case No. 15-290, review granted 12/11/15.
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We announced in a September 1, 2015 blog post that a North Dakota federal court stayed the effectiveness of the WOTUS rule on Thursday, August 27, 20015.  North Dakota v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 3:15-cv-59 (D.N.D. Aug. 27, 2015).  This stay applied only in the states that were parties to the North Dakota case, leaving the rule in effect for the rest of the country.
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