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Supreme Court to hear case that could limit reach of Clean Waters Act


The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a challenge to the Clean Waters Act. The case could limit the reach of the federal government under the Clean Waters Act when it comes to wetland protection. 

This is a very timely court decision as the Biden Administration announced plans to redefine the boundaries of the Water of the United States (WOTUS). The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Army upset many farmers and ranchers when they decided to re-establish the pre-2015 definition of  WOTUS. Those in the agriculture industry saw this as step backward by removing a rule that has provided certainty for farmers.

Michael and Chantell Sackett are landowners in Idaho looking to build a home on their property. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled they needed a Clean Water Act permit to build their house. 

According to Law360, “The justices said they will hear an appeal from Chantell and Michael Sackett, an Idaho couple waging a 15-year-old battle to build a house on land that federal regulators say is protected wetlands. The Sacketts won a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that let their lawsuit go forward.”

“The Sacketts’ ordeal is emblematic of all that has gone wrong with the implementation of the Clean Water Act,” Damien Schiff, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Sacketts, said in a statement Monday. “The Sacketts’ lot lacks a surface water connection to any stream, creek, lake, or other water body, and it shouldn’t be subject to federal regulation and permitting. The Sacketts are delighted that the court has agreed to take their case a second time, and hope the court rules to bring fairness, consistency, and a respect for private property rights to the Clean Water Act’s administration.”

The Cumberland River is a major waterway of the southern U.S. (Image courtesy of Ken Lund, Flickr)


American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “AFBF is pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the important issue of what constitutes Waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act. Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with, but they shouldn’t need a team of lawyers to farm their land. We hope this case will bring more clarity to water regulations.

“In light of today’s decision, we call on EPA to push pause on its plan to write a new WOTUS rule until it has more guidance on which waters fall under federal jurisdiction. For the past 10 years, Farm Bureau has led the charge on elevating the issue of government overreach in water regulations. The goal is simple, clean water and clear rules.”

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