BISMARCK, ND. – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated this week that it would issue a final rule on the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) before Sept. 1.

The agency motioned for a stay in a case against 24 plaintiff states and 18 trade associations, while the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) is finalized. The US District Court in North Dakota previously granted an injunction in April.

The agencies believe a stay would help conserve all parties’ resources as well as give “time to assess the new rule and determine whether to continue to litigate this case,” the motion said.

EPA and the US Department of the Army are developing a revised WOTUS definition that is consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the agencies noted.

The agencies published a final rule revising the WOTUS definition initially in January 2023.

Instigating the need for further modifications to the WOTUS definition was the Supreme Court’s ruling for Sackett v. US Environmental Protection Agency.

On May 25, the court ruled in favor of Chantell and Mike Sackett, who claimed the soggy portion of their property was not protected wetlands.

In the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court determined the wetlands could only be regulated by the Clean Water Act if there is a “continuous surface connection” to a larger, regulated body of water, which the Sacketts’ property was not.

Every 45 days of the proposed stay, EPA and the US Department of the Army have agreed to provide periodic status reports.

Following publication, the parties involved in the suit would need to submit a proposal for further proceedings within 21 days.

As EPA has progressed in its plans to update the WOTUS rule, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) motioned to strike the rule altogether.

On June 28, the trade group filed a request with the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas asking the court to strike down the rule in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Sackett case.

“In Sackett v. EPA, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act,” said Mary-Thomas Hart, NCBA chief counsel. “A full rewrite of the Biden administration’s WOTUS definition is the only path to comply with the Sackett decision.”