In a decision hailed by the transportation construction industry, the U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled that disputes over the Clean Water Act must be heard by federal district courts instead of appellate courts.
In their unanimous decision January 22, the justices agreed with the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and its litigation partners, finding that complaints regarding the waters rule belong in the district courts.
The association and its allies had contended that CWA regulatory challenges should be filed at the federal district court level, which is closer to where the regulation impacts local projects and landowners.
Proceedings that begin in district court also have more possibilities for appeal, and consequently, a better chance at reaching a correct decision, according to ARTBA.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump Administration had pushed for jurisdiction in the federal appellate courts.
The EPA claimed that starting the claims in district court is inefficient and wastes judicial resources.
But the justices held that federal district courts were the proper venue for challenging CWA regulations such as the 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.
Though the high court’s ruling clarifies an important jurisdictional question, it does not reinstate the 2015 Obama-era WOTUS rule.
ARTBA officials say they’ll “continue to work with the Trump administration to ensure the 2015 regulation is repealed and replaced with a new regulatory mechanism which continues to protect, sustain and improve our nation’s infrastructure, while addressing the future CWA challenges.”