Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Supreme Court to Weigh Curbs on Clean Water Act, Pitting Property Rights Against Wetlands


The U.S. Supreme Court, heeding calls from business and property-rights groups, agreed to use a long-running Idaho fight to consider curbing the reach of the Clean Water Act.

The justices said they will hear an appeal from Chantell and Michael Sackett, an Idaho couple waging a 15-year-old battle to build a house on land that federal regulators say is protected wetlands. The Sacketts won a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that let their lawsuit go forward.

The Sacketts’ appeal asks the court to revisit a 2006 Clean Water Act case, Rapanos v. United States, which failed to produce a majority decision and left uncertainty about the governing standard. Four justices, led by Antonin Scalia, said the law covers wetlands only if they have a continuous surface connection to a river, lake or other major waterway.

A fifth, Justice Anthony Kennedy, created his own test, saying the Clean Water Act covers wetlands with a “significant nexus” to one of those larger bodies of water.  

In their appeal, the Sacketts say courts and regulators alike have struggled to figure out how the two standards intersect. The couple’s lawyers say the court should adopt Scalia’s test and clear up the confusion...MORE


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