(The Center Square) – The US Supreme Court said the Biden Administration’s Waters of America rule under the Clean Water Act extends to “only those wetlands that are, in practice, indistinguishable from the waters of the United States.
The one issued Thursday erodes the rule that would have placed all of the country’s streams and wetlands under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, a rule that US Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., likened to “regulating puddles.”
“The Court was right to stop EPA’s pursuit to regulate Raindrop,” Cramer said in the statement.
The case dates back to 2004. Michael and Chantell Sackett of Idaho were building a house when they were told they couldn’t fill much dirt because the property was on wetlands adjacent to a tributary. They could face fines of up to $40,000 a day if they didn’t comply, the Sacketts said they were told. The couple sued. The United States Court of Appeals ruled against the Sacketts, who then appealed to the Supreme Court.
Judge Samuel Alito wrote the court opinion and said that the term “WOTUS” has always been uncertain.
“Does the term encompass any backyard that is sufficiently soggy for a minimum period of time? Does it include ‘marshes, marshes, wetlands, bogs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, [or] beach lakes? How about ditches, pools and puddles?” Alito wrote in the ruling.
The 5-4 decision drew praise from members of Congress and governors across the country, who, like Cramer, said the rule was unclear. Alaska has more than 3 million lakes and nearly 1 million miles of rivers, and the state had a lot at stake in the case, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune said the opinion would force the EPA to go back to the drawing board.
“Federal agencies have lately exploited the ambiguous definition of WOTUS to expand its jurisdictional scope to cover wetlands in Alaska with only a remote connection to traditionally navigable waters,” Brune said. “No more.”
Not everyone was happy with the decision.
“My administration is deeply disappointed in this Court that has once again sided with special interests and polluters by severely reducing protections for drinking water, wetlands and tributaries,” said Colorado Governor Jared cops.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the agency would review the Supreme Court’s decision and consider its next steps.
“As a public health agency, EPA is committed to ensuring that all people, regardless of their race, the money in their pocket, or the community in which they live, have access to safe, clean water. We will never abandon that responsibility. Regan said in a statement. “I am disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision that erodes longstanding clean water protections.”