Attorney General Fox Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on WOTUS Challenge

HELENA – Attorney General Tim Fox praised a decision issued Monday by The Supreme Court of the United States, allowing continuation of legal challenges to the Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

In 2015, a coalition of 13 states, including Montana, filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the legality of the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ newly adopted WOTUS rule. Other states and private parties also filed lawsuits challenging WOTUS, but did so in various Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals. The jurisdictional discrepancy ultimately lead to the U.S. Supreme Court having to determine the proper venue to hear challenges to the WOTUS rule.

While the courts have enjoined the EPA from implementing the rule, the various cases in district and circuit courts have been on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court determined the proper venue to hear challenges to the rule. The Supreme Court’s decision today resolved the jurisdictional questions, allowing Montana’s case to move forward before a Federal District Court Judge in North Dakota.

The Supreme Court ruled that continuation of challenges to WOTUS must begin in Federal District Court, the position advocated by the State of Montana. This ruling ensures that trial courts (Federal District Courts) will hear challenges to the merits of the WOTUS rule, rather than courts of appeals.

Applauding the Supreme Court’s decision, Attorney General Fox said, “Today’s decision is a victory for Montana as it allows continuation of the lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s unlawful Waters of the U.S. rule. By moving forward with the lawsuit, the coalition of states hope to prevent any future presidential administration from violating federal law through the issuance of regulations in an attempt to circumvent Congress.”

In February of last year, President Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to begin a new rulemaking process for Clean Water Act enforcement, effectively repealing the WOTUS rule. However, the states challenging the WOTUS rule want to continue the legal case in order to establish judicial precedent that precludes future administrations from promulgating unlawful rules similar to what the Obama Administration adopted.

Click here to view the full decision.