Supreme Court to hear WOTUS litigation

In a rebuke to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court today decided to continue hearing litigation over the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule.

The high court rejected the Justice Department's motion to halt the case while the Trump administration reconsiders and changes or rescinds the rule. The Clean Water Rule, though, remains stayed nationwide.

The Obama administration's rule clarified which streams and wetlands receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court case centered on whether legal challenges belong in federal district or appeals courts.

Petitioners filed 18 lawsuits in district courts and 22 petitions for review in federal appeals courts over the rule, which is also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS. In February 2016, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that it had jurisdiction to hear challenges.

The National Association of Manufacturers wanted to keep the case in local district courts and asked the Supreme Court to review the 6th Circuit's decision.

The Supreme Court decided to take up the case in January shortly before Inauguration Day, but the Trump administration this month asked the court to pause the case following an executive order compelling U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at the joint rule (Greenwire, March 9).

State supporters of the rule, trade groups and environmental organizations had urged justices to continue hearing the case.

Environmentalists argued that the questions over the correct legal venue would continue to be relevant given that they would likely sue over whatever replacement rule the Trump administration issues (Greenwire, March 16).

The choice of court affects the resources needed to litigate the merits of challenges, sets the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits, and helps determine whether actions can be challenged in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings.

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