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Supreme Court rules against EPA in wetland regulation dispute

Washington- The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the Environmental Protection Agency in a dispute over its power to regulate certain wetlands under the Clean Water Act, long seen as a key tool to protect waterways from pollution.

In an opinion written by Judge Samuel Alito in the case known as Sackett v. only to “wetlands having a continuous surface connection with bodies of water that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right”.

Five justices joined Alito’s majority opinion, while the other four – Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – concurred in the judgment.

The conservative court ruling is the latest to target the EPA’s authority to control pollution. On the last day of his term last year, the high court limited agency power regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, dealing a blow to efforts to combat climate change.

That dispute involved the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court has now considered the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, which regulates discharges of pollutants into what the law defines as “state waters.” -United”. Under regulations issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “United States waters” are defined to include “wetlands” that are “adjacent” to traditional navigable waters.

The long-running affair dates back to 2007, when Michael and Chantell Sackett began building a home on land in a residential neighborhood near Priest Lake, Idaho. After the Sacketts obtained local building permits and began placing sand and gravel on the land, the EPA ordered a halt to work and ordered the couple to restore the property to its natural state, claiming that the land contained wetlands subject to protection under the Clean Water Act.

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

The agency decided to dismiss the lawsuit, and a federal district court in Idaho granted the request. The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld, but the Supreme Court revived the lawsuit and returned the dispute to the lower courts.

In its second round in the lower courts, the district court ruled for the EPA, finding that the agency had the authority to regulate wetlands believed to be on the Sacketts’ lot according to a test established by Judge Anthony. Kennedy in a 2006 case involving the Clean Water Act.

In Rapanos v. United States of 2006, the court established two competing tests to determine whether wetlands can be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Under Kennedy’s standard — applied by lower courts in the Sacketts’ legal fight — a wetland can be covered by the Clean Water Act if it has a “significant connection” to traditional navigable waters.

The 9th Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, finding that the EPA has power over wetlands. In its decision, the appeals court found that the agency had jurisdiction over the Sacketts’ property, which it described as a “soggy residential lot”, because the wetlands on it were adjacent to a tributary which, together with another wetland complex, had an important connection to Priest Lake. Wetlands, according to the 9th Circuit, “significantly affect the integrity of Priest Lake”.


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