A legal decision based on semantics has weakened the protections of the Clean Water Act, which could have serious environmental repercussions for decades to come.
The Supreme Court sided with an Idaho couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett, over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s the second major decision about America’s most important water protection law since 2006.
The couple has been battling the agency for more than a decade over their plans to develop a property in the state’s panhandle.
All of the justices agreed about a “lack of clarity” regarding which types of water are covered by the Clean Water Act.
In the right-wing’s majority decision, all of the conservative justices, minus Brett Kavanaugh (who actually sided with the liberals on the bench), decided that “Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters, even if they are located nearby,” in a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.
It’s a gutting of the Clean Water Act.
For a change, Just Kavanaugh got it correct. He slammed the rest of his right-wing colleagues for effectively striking down the law Congress passed by redefining the meaning of the words intended to protect marshes, lakes, and other wetlands. Politico reports:
“Put simply, the Court’s atextual test — rewriting ‘adjacent’ to mean ‘adjoining’ — will produce real-world consequences for the waters of the United States and will generate regulatory uncertainty,” Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion.
The guidelines were “difficult for property owners to understand,” wrote Justice “Peeples Be Dumm” Alito.
The Sacketts suit is based on specific language in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the EPA power to regulate the “waters of the United States.”
In an obtuse attempt to dig in and get their way, the Sacketts have wasted over ten years and untold dollars asking courts to “provide a clearer definition” for what the law meant when it handed over full regulatory power to the EPA.
Amazingly, all of the Justices agreed that the Sacketts’ property should not have been covered by the Clean Water Act (which is why Kavanaugh’s opinion is not a dissent).
Sadly for America’s drinking water supplies, the right wing of the radical Supreme Court decided it would be a good vehicle for some polluter-friendly judge legislation anyway.
The Sackofshits could’ve just checked the EPA’s website for free, where it’s clearly stated their mission is “to protect human health and the environment.”
But because rich white people just can’t hear the words “NO, YOU CANNOT BUILD YOUR WHITE ENCLAVE ON THESE LANDS,” the Sacketts got their case heard by the current SCOTUS lineup of compromised Harlan Crow-backed judges.
Thanks to the confusion over where they can and can’t pollute, Justice Alito wrote, a “staggering array of landowners are at risk of criminal prosecution” if they don’t realize their property is subject to federal environmental rules.
Um…so maybe they should ask before building somewhere?
That doesn’t seem like a lot when the planet is on fire.
Removing environmental protections is A BAD MOVE because we need clean water and air, and so do Republicans and their kids and grandkids.
I really don’t understand not caring about killing off your voting base in exchange for lots of money you can’t spend in a lifetime and can’t take with you.
But that’s just me.
Just make sure you put really good air and water purifying systems in all of your new houses, Mr. and Mrs. Sackett!
Anyway, watch the newly narrowed Clean Water Act to open the floodgates for more builders to take away formerly protected wetlands, which were once vital ecosystems.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rolls back the EPA’s ability to regulate water pollution under the Clean Water Act.
CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst @JoanBiskupic: “This is yet another ruling by this Supreme Court that cuts back on the power of the EPA in its regulation.” pic.twitter.com/FNYCXS21jP
— The Recount (@therecount) May 25, 2023
*THIS IS AN OPINION COLUMN THAT SOLELY REPRESENTS THE OPINIONS OF TARA DUBLIN. HOORAY FOR THE FREE PRESS!*
Other hot takes by Tara Dublin can be found on TikTok and Twitter @taradublinrocks.