Current Issue

During “Earth Week,” the Biden White House announced a new initiative called “The America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge.” They are stepping up their efforts to restrict 100,000 miles of American’s water rights, circumventing Congress and the Supreme Court.

They describe this new initiative as:  “A Partnership to Conserve and Restore America’s Rivers, Lakes, Streams, and Wetlands…by setting a newnational goal to protect, restore, and reconnect 8 million acres of wetlands and 100,000 miles of our nation’s river and streams.”

What they didn’t explain is, this is all a part of a United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) Freshwater Challenge, described as “the largest-ever global initiative to restore degraded rivers, lakes, and wetlands, which are central to tackling the world’s intertwined water, climate, and nature crises.”

On December 12, 2023, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory announced this “Challenge” was in “alignment with President Biden’s (30×30) America the Beautiful initiative…”  However, she went onto to explain:

“[t]he Freshwater Challenge (announced by the United Nations) aims to support, integrate, and accelerate the restoration of 300,000 km of degraded rivers globally – equivalent to more than seven times the distance around the Earth. Additionally, the Freshwater Challenge aims to restore approximately 864,870,000 million acres of degraded wetlands by 2030, an area larger than India, as well as to conserve intact ecosystems.”

As insane as this initiative sounds, Bonner Cohen, a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), explained the White House scheme as starting an “end run around the Supreme Court WOTUS ruling.”   

Cohen called it “a multi-agency plan reasserting the federal role in determining the future of wetlands in the wake of last year’s landmark Supreme Court Decision limiting Washington’s authority to regulate ‘waters of the United States (WOTUS).”

He went on to say: “the administration’s move on wetlands appears to be part of a concerted effort to get as many rules and regulations as possible in place by the end of the year, in the event there is no second Biden term.”

Cohen continues stating “[F]or its part, the White House makes no secret that its latest wetlands initiative is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling in Sackett v. EPA, ‘which dramatically reduced federal protections for wetlands in one of the largest judicial rollbacks of environmental protections in U.S. history.’”

“In truth, the High Court clarified — at long last — the vague language of the 1972 Clean Water Act that had hitherto allowed EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to claim regulatory jurisdiction over millions of acres of wetlands and other isolated bodies of water with no direct connection to ‘navigable waters of the United States.’ The Supreme Court’s decision pulled the legal rug out from under the Biden administration’s plans to impose federal zoning on millions of acres of private and public land across the U.S under the guise of protecting wetlands.”

The administration announced: “it will spend over $1 billion to improve drinking water quality on Tribal lands, $11 million to combat Western megadroughts, $70 million to upgrade dams, culverts, levees, and other water infrastructure and $123 million for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand its coastal management programs.”   

However, as Cohen explains, “the White House was vague about how it plans to reassert jurisdiction over wetlands.  Administration officials must know that any move they make that violates the Supreme Court’s Sackett ruling will invite a flood of lawsuits.”

Another legal scholar, Lawrence A. Kogan with the Kogan Law Group, wrote a 39-page “Working Paper” entitled “The United States Government’s Ongoing Defiance of EPA v. Sackett-II.”  He concurs with Cohen’s conclusion that this “Freshwater Challenge” is nothing more than an end-run around the Supreme Court’s Sacket-II ruling.

Kogan extensively documents how, despite the Court’s May 2023 Sackett-II decision, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, and other federal agencies “continue to quietly rely on a notion of ‘plenary’ power under the Commerce Clause to justify ongoing jurisdiction over intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams as ‘waters of the United States (‘WOTUS’).’”

Kogan argues that the Biden administration’s federal agencies do not respect the Supreme Court’s decision and continue to assert jurisdiction over 270-300 million acres of wetlands throughout the nation.  He suggests that Congress should “finally clip the wings of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division” that has the “authority to bring administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement actions against landowners and land users…”

He argues Congress needs to reign in the federal government’s power and stop it’s activist actions that are weaponized against ordinary citizen landowners.

Clearly, this initiative is part of Biden’s 30×30 plan to protect at least 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by 2030 and their scheme to thwart the Supreme Court’s ruling on wetlands.  Our laws and system of justice have become a mockery under this Administration, which routinely ignores both.

Bonner Cohen article in Daily Caller:  https://dailycaller.com/2024/04/30/opinion-biden-white-house-starts-end-run-around-supreme-court-wotus-ruling-bonner-russel-cohen/

Lawrence Kogan’s Working Paper: https://www.wlf.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Kogan-2024-WP-.pdf

White House Press Release December 12, 2023: https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/news-updates/2023/12/12/ceq-chair-brenda-mallory-announces-united-states-participation-in-the-global-freshwater-challenge-at-cop28/

White House Fact Sheet on The America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge: https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/97632-2/