WASHINGTON, DC -- This morning, by a 2-1 vote, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule nationwide, until it determines whether it has jurisdiction over the petitions for review. Despite the fact that the ruling is for jurisdictional issues, the majority also found a substantial possibility of success on the merits of the lawsuit in two areas: the rule does not comport with the U.S Supreme Court's Rapanos's opinion; and, significant changes in the rule, specifically the numeric distance limitations, were never subjected to public notice and comment. Since the 'bright line' of distance limitations from tributaries was never broached by the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers in the proposed rule a win for agriculture on this merit would allow the rice industry and other agricultural groups to weigh in on this controversial aspect of the rule.
The decision immediately stays the rule nationwide although EPA has not yet responded publicly if they will adhere to the decision of the three judge panel. If the agency ceases implementation and enforcement of the rule per the court's decision then the rule is stayed until other actions take place such as the decision being overturned by a higher court or the full court of appeals, or the jurisdiction question is settled and a court takes up the merits of the case.