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Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against EPA and Biden’s Climate Change Agenda

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered some bad news to President Joe Biden’s radical left climate agenda in a ruling involving broad authorities claimed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a 9-0 ruling, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court, said that the agency’s congressional mandate does not give it the authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate wetlands near certain bodies of water, as the agency claimed.

The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which sided with the EPA, CBS News reported.

“The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear,” Alito wrote. “Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by E.P.A. employees as wetlands covered by the act, and according to the federal government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy.”

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The lone conservative dissent was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who sided with the court’s liberals in arguing that the ruling would harm the EPA’s ability to combat pollutants.

“By narrowing the act’s coverage of wetlands to only adjoining wetlands, the court’s new test will leave some long-regulated adjacent wetlands no longer covered by the Clean Water Act, with significant repercussions for water quality and flood control throughout the United States,” Kavanaugh explained.

The ruling follows one last year by the high court that also curbed the agency’s authorities to address climate change issues under the law.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan, in a separate concurring opinion, drew a connection between the two cases and voiced criticism of the court’s self-appointed role as the ultimate arbiter of national environmental policy. Kagan argued that the majority’s approach not only hampers the EPA’s ability to effectively regulate nearby wetlands but also previously impeded the agency’s efforts to control power plant emissions in order to tackle climate change.

The current case, Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, involved Michael and Chantell Sackett of Idaho, who sought to build a home on a residential lot near Priest Lake in the state’s panhandle.

The agency issued an order to the couple, directing them to cease their construction activities and restore the property to its original state, accompanied by the threat of high fines. However, instead of complying with the order, the Sacketts opted to file a lawsuit against the agency.

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Their legal action triggered a debate regarding the timeliness of the lawsuit, which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court in a previous appeal. In 2012, the justices ruled in favor of allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

The state of Texas in March also managed to block the EPA’s new water rule in a federal court decision that was celebrated by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“Big victory against Biden: Last night a federal court blocked the Admin’s radical ‘waters of the US’ rule, which imposes a leftist environmental agenda on Texas, crushing new regs, and oppressive economic costs. I will always fight to keep Biden’s boots off the necks of Texans!” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted at the time.

Paxton filed suit against the Biden administration in January to block the rule.

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“The Clean Water Act (“CWA”) requires federal permits to discharge pollutants into ‘navigable waters’,” the complaint stated. “‘Navigable waters,’  in turn, is defined to mean ‘the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.’ Waters that do not fit into this definition are not within federal jurisdiction and may still be regulated by states and tribes.”

It also argued that “the Federal Agencies unconstitutionally and impermissibly” tried to “expand their own authority beyond Congress’s delegation in the” Clean Water Act.

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