The US Supreme Court is unanimous in ruling in favor of an Idaho couple who have tangled with the EPA for years over interpretations of the federal Clean Water Act. The judges produced conflicting opinions in ruling in favor of the couple.
The majority opinion of 5 to 4 found that in Sackett v. EPA, federal regulators have long exceeded their authority under the Clean Water Act. The majority opinion written by Justice Alito means that EPA’s authority over wetlands is not as broad as the agency wished. Joining Alito were Justices Roberts, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Barrett.
The Court determined that to be subject to the Clean Water Act, wetlands adjacent to traditionally navigable waters must qualify as “waters of the United States” in their own right by being indistinguishably part of a body of water that itself constitutes ” waters” under the Clean Water Act. Water Law.
In the decision, the Court did not follow EPA’s most recent interpretation of the Waters of the United States, which included those wetlands that have a “significant nexus” to traditional navigable waters or those that are adjacent or “neighboring” to the traditional navigable waters. waters
The other opinion was written by Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson. Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion agreed with the majority of the Court in not adopting the “significant nexus” test to determine whether a wetland is covered by the Clean Water Act, but disagreed. with the new test the majority opinion is raised.
The high court ruled that there must be a continuous surface connection, making it difficult to determine where the water ends and the wetland begins.
Kavanaugh specifically disagreed with the interpretation of most “adjacent” wetlands under the Clean Water Act to refer only to “adjacent” wetlands, noting that “adjacent” and “adjacent” have different meanings.
Alito opened by explaining the origins of the dispute between the Sacketts and the EPA as follows:
“Petitioners Michael and Chantell Sackett purchased property near Priest Lake, Idaho, and began filling the lot with dirt to prepare for the construction of a home. The Environmental Protection Agency informed the Sacketts that their property contained wetlands and that their fill violated the Clean Water Act, which prohibits the discharge of pollutants into “the waters of the United States.”
“The EPA ordered the Sacketts to restore the site, threatening fines of more than $40,000 a day. The EPA classified the wetlands on the Sacketts’ lot as “waters of the United States” because they were near a ditch that emptied into a stream, which emptied into Priest Lake, an intrastate navigable lake. The Sacketts sued, claiming their property was not “waters of the United States.” The District Court entered summary judgment for the EPA. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the CWA covers wetlands with an ecologically significant nexus to traditional navigable waters and that the Sacketts’ wetlands meet that standard.”
In response to the decision in Sackett v. EPA. The CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Ted McKinney, said that its impact will be on states and farmers.
“The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA today is good news for farmers, landowners and state departments of agriculture seeking clarity on what has been an over-litigated issue for decades,” McKinney said. “We are relieved by this decision as the judges clearly state that ‘the significant link theory is particularly implausible’ and the EPA has no legal basis to impose the standard.”
“Today’s ruling demonstrates that protecting our nation’s waterways and growing food, fiber and fuel are two joint efforts, not two competing interests,” McKinney said. “However, there is still work to be done to ensure that farmers and ranchers are equipped to take better care of their land while complying with applicable federal or state requirements.”
NASDA turns to the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised version of its published WOTUS rule. Against volumes of stakeholder input, EPA and the Corps issued a WOTUS rule before today’s SCOTUS decision, which now makes parts of the agency’s final WOTUS rule moot.
Looking forward, NASDA said it will continue to work with EPA, the Corps and NASDA members to update and implement a regulatory framework that better reflects the needs of state agriculture departments, farmers, ranchers and all the communities they serve. serving.
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