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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Supreme Court rules against EPA in wetlands regulation challenge

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a wetlands regulation challenge, siding with an Idaho couple who had been barred from building a home on their property.

The 9-0 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, overturned a lower court ruling that had upheld the EPA’s determination that the Sacketts’ property contained wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act.

The EPA’s definition of wetlands is based on a 1987 rule that requires water to be present at least part of the year. The Sacketts argued that the rule was too broad and that it should only apply to wetlands that are inundated or saturated by water at least two years out of every three.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Sacketts, saying that the EPA’s definition of wetlands is “arbitrary and capricious.” The court also said that the EPA failed to provide a sufficient explanation for why it adopted the 1987 rule.

The ruling is a major setback for the EPA and could make it more difficult for the agency to regulate wetlands. It is also likely to have a significant impact on development projects that are located near wetlands.

The Sacketts, who have been fighting the EPA for nearly two decades, said they were “elated” with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We’re just so happy that the Supreme Court has finally recognized our rights,” Chantell Sackett said. “We’ve been fighting this for so long, and it’s just a huge relief.”

The EPA said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and that it was “still reviewing the decision.”

“We will continue to work to protect our nation’s waters,” the agency said in a statement.

The Supreme Court’s decision is the latest in a series of rulings that have limited the EPA’s authority to regulate the environment. In 2021, the court ruled that the EPA could not regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants without Congress passing new legislation.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case is likely to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is unclear whether the Ninth Circuit will uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling.

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