Rep. Glenn Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and cosponsor of the resolution, issued this statement following the president’s veto: “Both the House and Senate voted in a bipartisan manner to vacate this Administration’s disastrous WOTUS rule. America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners have made it clear this WOTUS definition is overly burdensome and unworkable, only exacerbating the regulatory uncertainty rural communities currently face. By vetoing this resolution, President Biden has once again turned his back on rural America.”
In his veto message, Biden claimed that the bipartisan measure would leave the U.S. without a clear definition of waters of the united states.
While the move was nothing unexpected, contention continues over the rule’s broad scope and lack of agricultural exemptions. Farm and ranch groups argue that new rule gives the federal government the ability to reach into America’s farms and ranches, regulating features that do not impact downstream water quality, and therefore, should not be subject.
» Related: It’s understandable that farmers aren’t happy with the new WOTUS rules
The new WOTUS rules are so ambiguous that they may require farmers to hire people from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Army Corps of Engineers to examine waterways on their property. For example, farmers who own thousands of acres of land could spend a whole month tromping through woods helping an Army engineer get to all the possible WOTUS locations on the land.
The new WOTUS rules don’t come without hefty fines for non-compliance. Because of these fines and the ambiguity of how “additional waters” are defined, farmers are going to be facing scrutiny for previously unimportant matters.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented on the president’s decision to veto the Congressional Review Act joint resolution, saying, “This veto flies in the face of President Biden’s promise to support farmers and ranchers. This rule is a clear case of government overreach that leaves farmers wondering whether they can farm their own land. It’s a shame the President is standing with bureaucrats instead of with the people who stock America’s pantries.”
In March, nine Democrats joined a Republican-led House effort to combat and overturn the WOTUS rule. Then, four more Democrats and Independent Krysten Sinema (Arizona) joined Senate Republicans in a 53-43 vote against WOTUS.
Earlier this year, a group of agricultural organizations brought the case to the Federal District Court of Southern Texas seeking a preliminary injunction against the Biden Administration’s WOTUS rule. On March 19, Texas Federal Judge Jeffrey Brown denied the motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction, granting an injunction only in Texas and Idaho.
The Public Lands Council filed a new suit in North Dakota with the aim of obtaining a nationwide, preliminary injunction against the WOTUS rule.
What happens with WOTUS likely lies primarily with the Supreme Court who will issue a decision on Sackett v. EPA sometime in late spring or early summer. The decision will outline the proper test for determining whether wetlands are “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.