Supreme Court Limits EPA's Power to Protect Wetlands

Supreme Court Limits EPA's Power to Protect Wetlands

The Supreme Court's decision limits the EPA's ability to regulate wetlands, potentially impacting the delicate ecosystems they support.

Justice Samuel said the Clean Water Act doesn't allow the agency to regulate discharges into wetlands near bodies of water unless they have “a continuous surface connection” to those waters.

Environmental experts say this decision will leave many wetlands subject to pollution without penalty, sharply undercutting the EPA’s authority to protect them.

President Biden aims to explore alternative approaches to protect wetlands, given the crucial role they play in mitigating climate change.

The decision was the second major blow to the EPA’s power. Last year, the court limited the EPA’s power to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.

The ruling underscores the ongoing debate over the balance of power between administrative agencies and the judiciary, with implications for future environmental regulations.

The case concerned an Idaho couple who sought to build a house on what an appeals court called “a soggy residential lot” near Priest Lake, in the state’s panhandle.

The decision was nominally unanimous, with all justices agreeing that the homeowners should not have been subject to the agency’s oversight.

However, there was sharp disagreement about a new test the majority established to determine which wetlands are covered by the law.

The majority “fashioned a policy for the entire United States based on this one particular set of facts of this property in northern Idaho,” said Professor Parenteau.

Let's raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and urge our lawmakers to take action to protect these vital ecosystems in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision.