Supreme Court Unanimously Strikes Down Biden Environmental Policy for Being Too Broad
The Supreme Court released an opinion rejecting Biden’s EPA environmental policy that expanded the definition of water sources and, consequently, the federal government’s power.
The high court’s unanimous 9-0 decision, which Justice Samuel Alito delivered, rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) broad definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and effectively upended recent Biden policy.
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The case centered on Michael and Chantell Sackett, two Idaho residents whom the EPA prohibited from building a home near a wetland years ago, citing the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 by defining wetlands as a water source legally akin to a lake or river.
“The EPA ordered the Sacketts to restore the site, threatening penalties of over $40,000 per day,” Alito’s majority opinion stated. “The EPA classified the wetlands on the Sacketts’ lot as ‘waters of the United States’ because they were near a ditch that fed into a creek, which fed into Priest Lake, a navigable, intrastate lake. The Sacketts sued, alleging that their property was not ‘waters of the United States.'”
The ruling eventually held that for part of the environment to be deemed a water source and under federal authority and to “assert jurisdiction over an adjacent wetland under the CWA, a party must establish “first, that the adjacent [body of water constitutes] . . . ‘water[s] of the United States’ (i.e., a relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters); and second, that the wetland has a continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the ‘water’ ends and the ‘wetland’ begins.”
While the court was unanimous on the case’s merits, agreeing that in the specific circumstance, the federal government overstepped its authority, there was a 5-4 split on the new definition of a water source.
Justice Alito, who delivered the opinion, explained that “Understanding the CWA to apply to wetlands that are distinguishable from otherwise covered ‘waters of the United States’ would substantially broaden [existing statute] to define ‘navigable waters’ as ‘waters of the United States and adjacent wetlands.”
Republican groups have cheered the decision as a win for landowners and a justified curtailing of the federal government’s power.
Speake McCarthy tweeted his support for the ruling.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a win for farmers, businesses, and Americans across the nation by rejecting, yet again, the Biden administration’s costly and burdensome regulatory overreach.”
Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a win for farmers, businesses, and Americans across the nation by rejecting, yet again, the Biden administration’s costly and burdensome regulatory overreach. https://t.co/VsS9m1L2ri
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) May 25, 2023
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According to Fox News, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also expressed her support.
“Today, the Supreme Court sent a loud and clear warning shot to the Biden administration about its attempts to overregulate the lives of millions of Americans. By rejecting the ‘significant nexus’ test, the Court protected America’s farmers, ranchers, builders, and landowners from overreach under the Clean Water Act, and ruled President Biden’s recent WOTUS rule goes too far”
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