Unlawful Waters of the United States Rule Threatens Farmers


AUSTIN, TX – Texas Attorney General Paxton has filed a lawsuit defending Texans from the Biden Administration’s unlawful rule defining “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”), which would assert federal control over Texas land.

Under the WOTUS rule, which is only a regulatory interpretation of a law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the U.S. Department of the Army are seeking to grow federal administrative power by expanding the limits of their own jurisdiction far beyond what Congress delegated to them. By design, Congress expressly limited their jurisdiction to “navigable waters.”

Ignoring Congress’s direction, Biden’s WOTUS rule seeks to subject land with isolated wetlands, ephemeral streams, and off-channel reservoirs to an expensive and burdensome federal permitting process. It would also disrupt the State’s development and management of its own energy, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure.

“Legal action is necessary to curtail this Administration’s continued intrusion into the rights of Texans and our ability to control our own natural resources,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I’m proud to file this lawsuit challenging Biden’s WOTUS rule and remain committed to pushing back against the Biden Administration’s radical climate agenda.”

In 2019, Attorney General Paxton won a major victory after a U.S. District Court ruled that the Obama-era WOTUS rule, which similarly attempted to expand the reach of federal environmental regulations in a way that would harm Texans and the Texas economy, was unlawful.

The Biden Administration repealed the Trump era interpretation and revised the rule to be based on definitions that were in place before 2015, when the Obama administration sought to expand federal protections.

Farming and ranching organizations are against the new rules as they will hinder where and when a farmer can plant his or her crops. While the agriculture industry awaits a Supreme Court ruling that some are saying can strike down the new Biden rules, confusion and unforeseen liabilities await. Land developers also face these challenges.

"This move shows a complete disrespect for property owners who are already harmed by the existing confusion and the federal government’s long-standing overreach to regulate almost every water imaginable, and even dry land. This overreach has made it difficult to engage in even normal activities, such as farming and ranching. Instead of waiting to see what the court said, the administration decided it would create even more confusion by issuing a rule that will likely be rendered moot as soon as the Supreme Court issues its opinion,” said Daren Bakst, Fellow for Environmental Policy and Regulation at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment’s Senior Research.

To read the full Paxton lawsuit, click here.

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