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Georgia v. Wheeler

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20138
Nos. 2:15-cv-0079, (S.D. Ga., 08/21/2019) (Wood, J.)

A district court granted a motion for summary judgment in a challenge to EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 2015 Clean Water Rule. States and industry groups argued the rule violated the CWA by extending the agencies' jurisdiction beyond the limits of the Act. The court determined that the rule's inclusion of all interstate waters in the definition of "waters of the United States," regardless of navigability, went beyond the scope of the CWA because it read the term "navigability" out of the Act and failed to comply with Justice Kennedy's significant-nexus test from Rapanos v. United Sates. Further, it substantially interfered with an area of traditional state authority without a clear indication from Congress allowing such interference in the Act. Plaintiffs also argued they were denied an opportunity to comment on certain elements of the final rule because the elements were not included in the proposed rule. The court found that the agencies failed to promulgate a final rule that was a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule with respect to the distance limits chosen for adjacent and case-by-case waters and the lack of a farming exclusion for tributaries. It therefore granted plaintiffs' motion and remanded to the agencies for further proceedings.