On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a long-standing legal and political battle over who regulates a body of water in the United States. The unanimous ruling sided with conservative entities challenging the Biden administration’s recent WOTUS (Waters of the United States) regulation, a rule issued in March that extended Federal oversight of U.S. waters.
The Court’s decision rejected the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s definition of the CWA (Clean Water Act) of 1972, which had defined Water of the United States (WOTUS) as a broad water source with a “continuous surface connection” between major bodies of water. The ruling mainly centered on the case of Michael and Chantall Sackett of Idaho whom the EPA had prohibited from building a home near a wetland, citing the CWA. The court’s majority opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, held that understanding the CWA as applying to wetlands distinguishable from the “waters of the United States” would “substantially broaden” the statute’s definition of navigable waters.
The unanimous 9-0 decision was celebrated by Republican lawmakers and groups representing landowners. It comes months after the EPA finalized and implemented the WOTUS regulations that expanded federal power to regulate wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams and “relatively permanent” waterways in an effort to curb water pollution.
“Today, the Supreme Court sent a loud and clear warning shot to the Biden administration about its attempts to overregulate the lives of millions of Americans,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“By rejecting the ‘significant nexus’ test, the Court protected America’s farmers, ranchers, builders, and landowners from overreach under the Clean Water Act, and ruled President Biden’s recent WOTUS rule goes too far,” Capito added. “I was proud to both support the petitioners on this case last year and lead a successful effort this year in Congress to overturn the Biden WOTUS rule, and am thrilled with the Court’s decision today, which is a major win for individual freedom.”