By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs, ARTBA

In a win for ARTBA and its industry allies, the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 22 unanimously agreed that Clean Water Act disputes should be heard in federal district courts instead of appellate courts. As a result of the ruling, similar future regulatory challenges will now first be heard by the district courts.

ARTBA and other groups that challenged the 2015 “Waters of the United Sates” (WOTUS) rule asserted that it should be defended at the federal district court level, which is closer to where the regulation impacts local projects and landowners. Also, proceedings that begin in district court have more possibilities for appeal and, therefore, a better chance at reaching a correct decision.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at the direction of the Trump administration, claimed that requiring such disputes to start in district court is inefficient and wastes judicial resources. The agency said cases should begin in federal appellate courts.

Meanwhile, EPA is still proceeding with the withdrawal of the 2015 WOTUS rule as well as issuing revised regulations. Both the withdrawal and revision of WOTUS are expected to spur additional litigation.