What will happen with WOTUS under the Biden administration?
One issue many farmers and landowners will be closely watching is the Waters of the U.S. Rule.
The agriculture sector praised President Trump’s changes to the Clean Water Act late last year, giving a new, broader definition of Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS. There is virtually no path to making the rule change permanent, because the margins of Congress are so thin.
The American Farm Bureau Federation explains what will likely happen.
According to Don Parrish, the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for AFBF, “Ultimately, what that’s going to lead to is the Biden administration taking executive action, and we expect the Biden administration to have a large number of administrative priorities.”
There are currently 14 active court cases challenging the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, under which WOTUS falls.
The Trump administration has been defending them in court. Parrish says that this will likely stop on January 20th.
“We expect the Biden administration to stop defending it,” he states. “We also expect them, in all likelihood, to pause litigation as they look at what they’re going to do with regard to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, something that we strongly support.”
He says that in addition to expanding WOTUS, the Biden administration will focus a lot on environmental justice for virtually all ag decisions.
“They’re also going to focus specifically on issues like nutrients, numeric nutrient criteria, as well as total maximum daily loads,” he adds. “The big wildcard in this administration and this Congress is going to be what the courts do with the Clean Water Act.”
Ultimately, that will likely come down to the courts.
Parrish states, “The big question, regarding the court system, is will we see a district court try to take down the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. If the answer to that is yeas, then will it be nationwide?”