The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a significant victory for Chantell and Michael Sackett in their nearly 16-year legal battle to construct their dream home near an Idaho lake.
The decision comes with a major sigh of relief for agriculture after the Biden administration finalized a new rule, redefining “waters of the United States”, or WOTUS. This new ruling adopts of the 2006 Waters of the United States rule, narrowing the reach of federal “protection” of clean waters.
In the ruling, a more stringent test was used to determine whether wetlands near the Sackett’s home site should be protected and the previous ruling was reversed.
Justice Samuel Alito emphasized the text of the Clean Water Act, which refers to relatively permanent bodies of water such as lakes and rivers when using the term “waters.” However, Alito acknowledged that some adjacent wetlands could also qualify as waters of the United States.
Under the new test, wetlands must have a continuous surface connection with a larger body of water, making it difficult to determine where the water ends and the wetland begins. The Supreme Court concluded that the wetlands on the Sacketts’ property were distinguishable from covered waters, reversing the lower court’s ruling.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in a separate opinion joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, expressed support for curbing federal authority and urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to respect the limits set by Congress. Thomas also criticized the court’s interpretations of the Constitution’s commerce clause in cases related to the Clean Water Act, arguing that they have strayed from the original meaning intended by the framers.
Although four justices disagreed with the majority’s reasoning, they concurred that the wetlands on the Sacketts’ property should not fall under the Clean Water Act. Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued for a broader interpretation of the CWA, including wetlands that are next to larger bodies of water or separated by natural or man-made barriers. Kavanaugh warned that the court’s new test could leave some regulated adjacent wetlands without coverage and create regulatory uncertainty.
The ruling is a victory for farmers and ranchers
The ruling is seen as a victory for housing developers, farmers, and the energy industry. However, critics, including environmental groups like Earthjustice, argue that the decision undoes decades of progress made by the Clean Water Act, leaving millions of acres of wetlands vulnerable to pollution and development.
Despite preliminary injunctions being granted by two federal judges, half of the U.S. was still impacted by the new WOTUS rule. In March, Senate passed a bill revoking WOTUS, President Biden issued a veto.
Here’s what agricultural organizations are saying:
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall writes, “AFBF appreciates the Supreme Court justices for their careful consideration of the implications of Sackett v. EPA. The EPA clearly overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act by restricting private property owners from developing their land despite being far from the nearest navigable water.”
“Cattle producers across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today. Since EPA’s adoption of the “significant nexus” test, cattle producers have had to retain costly legal services to determine if water features on their property are federally jurisdictional,” said Todd Wilkinson, South Dakota cattle producer and President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Today’s Supreme Court opinion refocuses the Clean Water Act on protecting our water resource through regulatory clarity. We look forward to working with the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as they implement the Court’s new Continuous Surface Connection standard.”
“The Fertilizer Institute welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA. The decision, which strikes down the “significant nexus” test in determining what is considered a Waters of the United States, is a win for agriculture. While regulatory interpretation from the EPA will take time, the SCOTUS decision is a great first step in providing the clarity that the fertilizer industry needs for long-term planning and capital investments that will allow us to continue providing the critical nutrients that feed the crops that feed our communities.”
Sponsored Content on AGDaily
Go to Source
Author: Heidi Crnkovic
Powered by WPeMatico