U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST EPA IN WETLANDS REGULATION CHALLENGE
By John Kruzel and Nate Raymond, Agriculture.com, May 25, 2023
May 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday put another dent in the regulatory reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, ruling in favor of an Idaho couple in their long-running bid to build a home on property that the EPA had deemed a protected wetland under a landmark federal anti-pollution law.
The justices in a 9-0 decision overturned a lower court's ruling against the couple, Chantell and Mike Sackett, that had upheld the EPA's determination that their property near a lake contained wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972. Though the justices unanimously agreed to reverse the lower court's decision, they differed in their reasoning for doing so.
The ruling marked the latest instance of the court backing a challenge to the scope of the EPA's ability to regulate in the environmental arena under existing law. In a 6-3 ruling last June powered by its conservative justices, the court imposed limits on the EPA's authority to issue sweeping regulations involving greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants under a different environmental law, the Clean Air Act.
The case decided on Thursday stemmed from the Sacketts' purchase in 2004 of an undeveloped plot of land about 300 feet (90 meters) from Priest Lake, one of the largest lakes in Idaho, near the U.S.-Canada border. In 2007, the couple began preparing construction of a home on it.
But after placing sand and gravel fill on the lot, the EPA issued an administrative compliance order stating the property contained wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act and that they needed a permit to build, which they had failed to obtain.
That law bars discharging pollutants, including rocks and sand, into the "waters of the United States," which regulators for decades have said covers not just navigable waters but adjacent wetlands like swamps, marshes and berms.