The Supreme Court delivered a resounding defeat to the Trump administration’s efforts to dilute the Clean Water Act today, according to a report on The Hill. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that Federal District Courts should hear cases litigated under the act, rather than the Federal Appeals Courts that the Trump Administration favored.
The decision concerned jurisdictional issues over lawsuits filed by groups challenging the extent of the rules, known as the Waters of the United States regulation, originally issued by the Obama Administration. The regulations concern which small streams and ponds are automatically covered by the Clean Water Act rules.
The move to keep the suit in the District Courts means that any decisions these courts may make can easily and quickly be appealed to the Supreme Court. One of the industry groups fighting the Trump Administration in the case, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), issued a statement after the decision in their favor:
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“Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision provides much needed clarity and affirms our longstanding position that the Clean Water Act empowers the federal district courts, not the courts of appeals, to initially review legal challenges to the Waters of the U.S. Rule.”
“This win, coupled with the administration’s actions in proposing to repeal the rule and seek input on how to properly define ‘waters of the U.S.,’ puts us one step closer to addressing this deeply problematic rule and the confusion it has created.”
As the statement implies, the lawsuits that the Supreme Court has now enabled to move forward with their ruling, may be completely moot if the Trump EPA gets its way. The environmental agency has already taken the first steps in the process to repeal the Obama-era rules, fulfilling a campaign promise that Trump made to eliminate bothersome environmental regulations that only protect citizens, not businesses.
Nevertheless, with the jurisdictional issues resolved, the courts can begin the process of assessing the extent of the rules that may be revoked, potentially delaying the rollback of the regulations for at least a short while.