Justices take up WOTUS jurisdiction dispute

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the dispute over which lower courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule.

Justices today granted an industry petition asking the court to reconsider the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to hear legal challenges over the rule, which is also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS.

More than 30 states and many industry and farm groups have challenged the joint U.S. EPA-Army Corps of Engineers rule redefining what waterways and wetlands receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act.

In February, the Ohio-based 6th Circuit ruled 2-1 that it had jurisdiction to hear the challenges. The 6th Circuit also issued a nationwide stay of the rule pending the resolution of the litigation.

The National Association of Manufacturers, with the support of 31 states, petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider the 6th Circuit's jurisdiction decision. It argued the litigation belongs in local district courts.

The decision by the Supreme Court to review the 6th Circuit decision is a big setback for the Obama administration, which has sought to keep the litigation in the appellate court and avoid fights in district courts that might be more sympathetic to challengers of the rule.

The fate of the litigation remains murky, though, given that President-elect Donald Trump will likely take steps to eliminate the rule. EPA had been scheduled to file its initial merits brief in the appeals court case two days before Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Reporter Jeremy Jacobs contributed.

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