Liberals were seething when the Supreme Court shut down President Biden’s environmental ruling in a 9-0 decision. Even though the verdict was unanimous, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it a “MAGA” court, adopting some of Biden’s anti-Trump rhetoric. The court’s decision struck the administration’s attempt to empower the EPA by giving the Biden administration free rein to regulate wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams, and other “relatively permanent” waterways. Republicans have widely cheered the ruling, confident that the court has taken essential steps in limiting the scope of the federal government and clamping down on excessive regulation.
By Chris Pandolfo; May 25, 2023
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate bodies of water, calling it a “MAGA” court even though the decision was 9-0.
On Thursday, the high court issued an opinion that narrowed the EPA’s broad definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The court said the federal government must define WOTUS as a water source with a “continuous surface connection” to major bodies of water.
The decision upended an attempt by the Biden administration to regulate wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams and other “relatively permanent” waterways, which had relied on a broad reading of the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
“This MAGA Supreme Court is continuing to erode our country’s environmental laws,” Schumer tweeted after the opinion was released. “Make no mistake – this ruling will mean more polluted water, and more destruction of wetlands.”
The ruling came down 9-0 in favor of plaintiffs Michael and Chantell Sackett, two Idaho residents whom the EPA prohibited from building a home near a wetland years ago.
“The EPA ordered the Sacketts to restore the site, threatening penalties of over $40,000 per day,” Alito’s majority opinion stated. “The EPA classified the wetlands on the Sacketts’ lot as ‘waters of the United States’ because they were near a ditch that fed into a creek, which fed into Priest Lake, a navigable, intrastate lake. The Sacketts sued, alleging that their property was not ‘waters of the United States.'”
However, the court split 5-4 in its analysis of how the federal government should define a water source under the Clean Water Act.
“Understanding the CWA to apply to wetlands that are distinguishable from otherwise covered ‘waters of the United States’ would substantially broaden [existing statute] to define ‘navigable waters’ as ‘waters of the United States and adjacent wetlands,'” Alito wrote.
Republicans and industry groups embraced the decision as a blow against what they view as federal overreach and excessive regulation.
“Big win today at the US Supreme Court,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose office led 26 states in filing an amicus brief supporting the Sacketts.
“Earlier this year, in a separate case, we obtained a preliminary injunction of the new Biden Administration WOTUS policy,” Morrisey said. “I will never hold back against federal overreach as we always step up to defend West Virginia jobs, our values, our freedoms, and our Constitution.”
However, the White House said the court’s decision “aims to take our country backwards.”
“It will jeopardize the sources of clean drinking water for farmers, businesses and millions of Americans,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Thursday’s press briefing in reaction to the decision.
“President Biden will use every legal authority available to him to ensure Americans in every state have clean water,” she added.
Photo: Billy Wilson//Flickr