The Supreme Court of the United States ruled this Thursday in favor of the two who had declared that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had placed itself, and agreed with those two, that it did not have the power to intervene in their land.
The Idaho-based Sacketts goes back more than a decade to the legal battle. They bought a piece of land in 2004, and they wanted to fill it with gravel and rocks to build a house on that lot, located 100 meters from the priest lake.
They got local permits, but the EPA ordered them to stop work and return the land to its original state, claiming the area contained wetlands subject to Clean Water Act protections. Sacks ended the EPA’s acquisition, finding that its authority did not extend to his land.
The Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, ruled that Thursday’s interpretation by the wetlands agency was “inconsistent” with the text and structure of the law, and that the law only “covers wetlands with continuous connection to bodies of water.” that they are “waters” of the United States in their own right.
The court considered that the EPA should have “very clear indications” of its regulatory authority in the matter and also tell Congress to use “extremely clear language if it wants to significantly change the balance between federal, state, and private property ownership.” .
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito admitted in the decision, voting 5 in favor and 4 against, that the Clean Water Act had been a success and that before 1972 many of the country’s rivers and lakes were heavily contaminated.
However, he explained that the scope of that organization was vague from the beginning. “It applies to the waters of the United States, but what does that mean?” he asked, noting that this meant that for half a year the institutions involved in his application had to deal with different interpretations.
For the supreme, clean water, act only to those “continuous connection to the bodies” of the waters of the United States in their own right, so that they are “indiscernible” from those waters, and wet properties.
The National Wildlife Federation said in a statement that today’s ruling harms the drinking water supply for millions of people and threatens the health of the nation’s rivers and wetlands.
“The federal Water Act’s protections are essential to vulnerable communities and resources across the country. The court’s ruling removes vital protections for streams and wetlands in every state,” said Jim Murphy, a spokesman for the legal defense organization.
Murphy therefore called for “conventions and state governments to intervene, close the gap, and protect water threats and the people who depend on them.”