Small Business Challenge to Waters of the United States Rule Should be Heard in Federal District Court

Date: May 05, 2017

NFIB Small Business Legal Center asks SCOTUS to clear up jurisdictional confusion

For Immediate Release
Andrew Wimer, 202-314-2073 or 703-298-5938 (cell)
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Washington, D.C. (May 5, 2017) – Yesterday afternoon, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse a decision issued by the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals—which had previously ruled that any suit challenging the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule should be heard in a court of appeal. Together, NFIB and the Chamber of Commerce sought to invalidate the WOTUS Rule—filing suit in the Northern District of Oklahoma where NFIB had identified numerous small business owners who would be affected by EPA and Army Corps’ illegal expansion of regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. NFIB and the Chamber also participated as parties to the proceedings in the Sixth Circuit—arguing that Congress intended these suits to be heard in the lower district courts.    

“Small business owners challenging federal rules deserve a hearing in a court that is within a reasonable distance of their home,” said NFIB Small Business Legal Center Executive Director Karen Harned. “Oklahoma businesses challenged WOTUS, but their case has been removed to Ohio. We are asking the Supreme Court to follow the plain letter of the law and allow a district court to hear the case.”

The Clean Water Act includes a special jurisdictional provision that provides that certain EPA actions may be challenged only in a federal court of appeal. However, NFIB argued in its lawsuit in Oklahoma, and as an amicus in the case currently pending before the Supreme Court, that Congress did not intend the jurisdictional provision to apply to the WOTUS rule, as a result, any challenges to that rule should have been heard in the federal district courts.

“To a farmer who is worried about losing the value of their land, the jurisdictional issues are mind-boggling,” said Harned. “Although NFIB is pleased that the Trump Administration has announced it will revise the burdensome WOTUS rule, small businesses need clarity in how these challenges will be heard in the future.  We believe the Supreme Court should interpret the Clean Water Act as written and allow small businesses whose property rights are threatened to be able to make their case in district court.”

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Related Content: Press Release | Legal | National | Oklahoma

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