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Supreme Court Rules on Wetlands Cases

Liberty Matters News Service


The Supreme Court announced on Monday, in a 5-4, decision, that the Army Corps of Engineers had overstepped its authority in two Michigan wetlands cases. Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion stated the only wetlands that fall under federal jurisdiction are those "with a continuous connection" to actual waterways. These are the only bodies of water that come within the statute's reference to 'the waters of the United States,'" he wrote. Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked the Corps for ignoring its decision in Solid Waste Agency v U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in which the Court ruled the Corps had exceeded its authority under 404 (a) of the Clean Water Act. "Rather than refining its view of its authority in light of our decision," he said, "the Corps chose to adhere to its essentially boundless view of the scope of its power. The upshot today is another defeat for the agency." Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was also with the majority in the Cook County case in 2001, sided with the majority here to "vacate and remand" the cases back to the lower court. His opinion stated that only wetlands and tributaries that have a "significant nexus" to waters of the U. S. may be federally regulated. Reed Hopper, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, representing John Rapanos, who has long been persecuted by the federal government for two decades, praised the decision. "Today's decision is a victory for balanced environmental protection… The Court has repudiated overreaching by the federal government."



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