Supreme Court rules against EPA in dispute over regulating wetlands

Washington — The Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday in a dispute over its authority to regulate certain wetlands under the Clean Water Act, which has long been seen as an important tool for protecting waterways from pollution. is seen as

In one opinion In the case known as Sackett v. EPA, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the high court found that the agency’s interpretation of wetlands covered by the Clean Water Act was “inconsistent” with the text and structure of the law. is, and the law extends only to “”. Wetlands with continuous surface connections to bodies of water that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right.

Five justices joined Alito in the majority opinion, while the remaining four — Justices Brett Cavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Katenji Brown Jackson — concurred in the decision.

The conservative court’s decision is the latest to target the EPA’s authority to police pollution. On the last day of its term last year, the High Court Limited the agency’s power. To control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, undermining efforts to combat climate change.

The controversy involved the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court has now addressed the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of pollutants that the law defines as “waters of the United States.” . Under regulations issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, “waters of the United States” are defined to include “wetlands” that are “adjacent” to traditional navigable waters.

The long-running case dates back to 2007, when Michael and Chantal Sackett began building a home on a lot in a residential neighborhood near Priest Lake, Idaho. When the Sacketts obtained local building permits and began filling the lot with sand and gravel, the EPA ordered a halt to the work and directed the couple to restore the property to its natural state, emphasizing However, there are wetlands in the land which are subject to protection under clean water. Act

Facing thousands of dollars in fines, the Sacketts sued the EPA in 2008, arguing that the agency’s jurisdiction under the statute did not extend to their property.

The agency moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and a federal district court in Idaho granted the request. The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed, but the Supreme Court reinstated the case and sent the dispute back to the lower courts.

In its second run through the lower courts, the district court ruled for the EPA, finding that the agency had sufficient wetlands to replace the Sacketts under the test set forth by Justice Anthony Kennedy in a 2006 case. has the power to regulate Clean Water Act

In the 2006 case, Rapanos v. United States, the Court laid out two competing tests for determining whether wetlands can be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Under the Kennedy standard — applied by lower courts in the Sacketts legal battle — a wetland can be covered under the Clean Water Act if it has a “significant nexus” with traditional navigable waters.

9th Circuit Confirmed District court decision, finding that EPA has jurisdiction over wetlands. In its ruling, the appeals court found that the agency had jurisdiction over the Sacketts’ property, which it described as a “closet residential lot,” because the wetlands on it adjoined a tributary that was a And together with the wetland complex had an important place. Junction with Pujari Lake. The wetlands, the 9th Circuit found, “significantly affect the integrity of Priest Lake.”

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