In a hit to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that cases litigating the Clean Water Act should be heard by federal district courts.
The administration had argued that those cases should be heard in Federal Appeals Court.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over an Obama-era regulation, known as the Waters of the United States rule, back in January 2017, after debate as to whether the Court of Appeals or federal district courts had the authority to hear the lawsuits from industry groups and states that say the rule went too far.
Dozens of parties had filed lawsuits over the regulation in both federal appeals courts and district courts.
Industry groups involved, led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), argued that under the Clean Water Act, lower district courts should first hear the challenges, which can then be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Trump administration, on the other hand, said the challenges were legally within the purview of appeals courts because the rule touched on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permitting authority.
“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,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said in a joint statement Monday.
“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.”
The case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense did not concern the merits of the 2015 Obama-era rule, under which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers asserted jurisdiction over small waterways like ponds and streams.
The regulation aimed to clarify which wetlands and streams were to be given automatic protection under the law.
However, the lawsuits are nearly moot. In June 2017, the EPA took the first formal step to uphold President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: ‘We should be like Canada’ in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: ‘Sheet metal and garbage’ everywhere in Haiti MORE ‘s campaign promise to repeal and replace the 2015 regulation.
The proposal said federal officials would go back to enforcing a guidance document from 2008 when deciding whether a waterway is subject to federal oversight for pollution control purposes.