Last August 29, the Supreme Court came out with a ruling that sided with a federal court’s decision over a property rights issue related to a Clean Water regulation. Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court wrote that for a wetland to be federally protected, it must be directly connected to an adjacent and “relatively permanent” waterway that is linked to traditional and traversable interstate bodies of water like a river or ocean. It’s also important that the waterway has a continuous surface connection to a specific body of water.
In May of this year, a federal judge ruled in favor of Chantell and Michael Sackett, the Idaho couple who objected to the Clean Water requirements that imposed on their right to build a house on a property near a lake.
Actually, agricultural groups, developers and owners of properties near waterways have long contested the US government’s use of the Clean Water Act to protect a broad range of waterways. The groups argued that regulations over waterways cover only certain types of wetlands, rivers and streams and not all.
The recent Supreme Court ruling was a win not only for the Sackett couple but for other oppositionists since it also narrowed down the scope of environmental regulations.
How the Ruling Affects Environmental Regulations
Actually, several environmental groups have also been pushing for a clearer and broader coverage of the Clean Water Act. The bill used the phrase “significant nexus” to specify a feature of the federally protected wetlands. Environmental groups had long sought for a broader and more specific coverage so that more wetlands and sources of water can be protected.
However, the recent Supreme Court ruling specified a clear and direct connection to a body of water as basis for federal protection. This ruling curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the use of wetlands in general.