The Supreme Court limits the EPA’s authority to address water pollution

Supreme Court on Thursday Reduced the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency To police water pollution, the Clean Water Act ruled that it does not allow the agency to regulate discharges in certain wetlands near water bodies.

The court said the law would cover only wetlands with “continuous surface connectivity,” and Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote to five justices.

The decision was nominally unanimous, with all justices agreeing that the homeowners who brought the suit should not be subject to agency oversight. But there was a sharp disagreement with the logic of the majority.

Justice Brett M., who joined the three liberal justices in a unanimous opinion. Kavanagh said the decision could affect the EPA’s ability to fight pollution.

“The Court’s new test narrows the scope of the wetlands law, with significant impacts on water quality and flood control, leaving some long-regulated wetlands no longer covered by the Clean Water Act,” he wrote. America.”

The decision follows a ruling last year that limited the EPA’s authority to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.

“There,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a second concurring opinion, “the majority’s non-textuality prevented the EPA from most effectively preventing climate change by regulating power plant emissions. Here, that method prevents the EPA from keeping our nation’s waters clean by regulating nearby wetlands. Two The corollary in the cases is the same: the appointment of the Court as the national decision-maker on environmental policy.

The case, Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, no. 21-454, concerned an Idaho couple, Michael and Chantelle Sackett, who sought to build a home near Priest Lake in what the appeals court called “a wet tenement.” Panchayat of the State.

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After the couple began preparing the property for construction in 2007 with sand, gravel and fill, the company stopped them and returned the property to its original condition, threatening substantial fines. The couple sued the agency instead, and a dispute over whether the suit was premature reached the Supreme Court in an earlier appeal. In 2012, Judges He ruled That the case may proceed.

In A harmonious concept At the time, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the law gave the agency too much power.

“The scope of the Clean Water Act is far from clear,” he wrote. “Any land that is wet for at least part of the year is at risk of being classified as a wetland covered by law by EPA staff, and according to the federal government, if property owners start building lots of homes the agency thinks have the required wetness, the property owners are at the mercy of the agency.

The Clean Water Act allows for the regulation of discharges into what the law calls “waters of the United States.” The question for the judges is how to decide which wetlands are worthy of such water bodies.

Lower courts ruled that the Sacketts’ property was a wetland, concluding that it qualified under a 2006 Supreme Court ruling. Rapanos vs. USAIt consisted of competitive exams to decide the question.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, wrote for four justices in the Rapanos decision that only wetlands with “continuous surface connectivity” qualify as “relatively permanent, standing or flowing bodies of water.” That standard favored sockets.

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Justice Anthony M., who retired in 2018. Kennedy said the consensus was that the law only requires a “significant connection” between the wetlands and water bodies at issue.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit He ruled Justice Kennedy’s opinion was a controlling one. company, Judge Michelle D. Brightland Wrote for the board, “it was reasonably determined that the Sacketts’ property contained wetlands that shared a significant connection with Priest Lake.”

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