The Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that curtailed the federal government’s authority to regulate bodies of water and effectively reversed a Biden administration policy that took effect recently.
The high court’s unanimous 9-0 decision, which was handed down by Justice Samuel Alito, rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) broad definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS). The case centered on Michael and Chantall Sackett, two Idaho residents who were banned by the EPA from building a home near a wetland years ago, citing the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA).
“EPA ordered the Sacketts to restore the site, threatening penalties of more than $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 drained into a stream, which drained into Priest Lake, a navigable intrastate lake. The Sacketts sued, claiming that their property was not “waters of the United States”.
The ruling ultimately held that the federal government’s WOTUS definition must be limited to a water source with a “continuous surface connection” to major water bodies.
Although the decision was unanimous on the merits, the court split 5-4 on how the federal government should go about defining water sources.
FARMERS CLAIM BIDEN FOR LATEST ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION DIRECTED TO COMPANIES: “FEDERAL EXCESS”
“Understanding the CWA to apply to wetlands as distinguished from otherwise covered “waters of the United States” would substantially expand [existing statute] to define “navigable waters” as “waters of the United States and adjacent wetlands,” Alito wrote.
The ruling, which was applauded by Republican lawmakers and groups representing landowners, comes months after the EPA finalized and implemented a new WOTUS regulation.
NEARLY 200 GOP LAWMAKER BLAST BIDEN’S EPA FOR DIRECTION PLEASURES, CATTLEMEN: ‘EGREGIOUS FEDERAL EXCESS’
On December 30, the last business day of 2022, the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers quietly announced that they had approved the WOTUS regulation and that it would be implemented in March. After it was announced, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the rule “safeguards our nation’s waters.”
The rule opened the door for the federal government to regulate “relatively permanent” wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams and waterways, largely mimicking a pre-2015 environmental rule established during the Obama administration that implemented the changes in a effort to curb water pollution. The regulation was the broadest interpretation to date of which water sources require protection under the CWA.
Industry groups, Republican lawmakers in Congress and several states criticized the regulation as an example of federal overreach and demanded it be rescinded. In April, a federal judge accepted a request from 24 states and several trade groups to pause enforcement of the regulation. And the House and Senate passed a rule rejecting the rule.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“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,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va. , ranking member of the Environment and the Senate. Public Works Commission.
“Rejecting the ‘significant nexus’ test, the Court protected America’s farmers, ranchers, builders and landowners from the excesses of the Clean Water Act and ruled that President Biden’s recent WOTUS rule goes too far away,” added Capito. “I was proud to support the petitioners in this case last year and to lead a successful effort this year in Congress to overturn the Biden WOTUS rule, and I am delighted with the Court’s decision today, which is a great victory for individual freedom”.
Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said the court ruled in favor of “the Constitution, the American people and our liberties” and called on the EPA to officially rescind its WOTUS regulation.
The Waters Advocacy Coalition, a group that represents farmers, applauded the Supreme Court for preserving water protections while providing clarity for farmers and landowners.
“The Court’s opinion also overturns the Biden administration’s overreaching WOTUS rule,” the group said. “After decades of attempts to expand the federal government’s power over private land, America’s job creators and farmers can proceed with more certainty in providing critical services on which our economy depends, from growing healthy food to building affordable housing and producing domestic energy.”