The EPA just received its second setback within a year. Last year the Supreme Court limited the EPA’s ability to address climate change under the Clean Air Act and this time they have limited the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, concerning our wetlands.
In response to their action, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. indicated that the Clean Water Act does not allow the agency to regulate discharges into wetlands near bodies of water unless they have a continuous surface connection to those waters.
Environmental experts, opposed to the ruling, say this ruling will leave many wetlands subject to pollution without penalty, sharply undercutting the E.P.A.’s authority to protect them under the Clean Water Act.
Those opposed believe the court has appointed itself as the national decision maker on environmental policy and rendered a narrow decision based on the facts of a case in Northern Idaho and applied it throughout the country.
However, those in favor of the ruling said it was another example of the court’s skepticism of the authority of administrative agencies. Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said, “The current court is clearly unwilling to defer to an agency about the scope of that agency’s own power.”
Damien Schiff, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the homeowners in this case, praised the Supreme Court’s decision. “Courts now have a clear measuring stick for fairness and consistency by federal regulators,” he said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a profound win for property rights and the constitutional separation of powers.”
The Supreme Court as composed June 30, 2022 to present.
Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.
Back row, left to right: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.