Idaho couple takes on EPA at the Supreme Court over land rights
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday from both sides of a contentious environmental case, that has the potential to change the Clean Water Act as we know it.
“The case is huge,” said Bob Wendelgass, who serves as president of Clean Water Action. He braved the rain Monday to stand in solidarity with the EPA.
“The Clean Water Act is the fundamental law that protects our nation’s waters,” said Wendelgass, “This would eliminate protection from half of all the remaining wetlands in the U.S.. 20% of all the stream miles in the U.S. It’s a big deal”
The case revolves around Michael and Chantell Sackett who bought a soggy plot of land near Priest Lake, Idaho in 2004.
With the intention of building a home on the property, they began back-filling the low lying wet area.
The EPA stepped in, claiming they were interfering with protected wetlands.
Lawyers for the Sacketts argued before the Justices that the EPA doesn’t have jurisdiction over the property because there isn’t enough water to constitute a wetland.
“EPA remains steadfast in their view that their property contains navigable waters - subject to regulation under the clean water act,” argued Sackett attorney Damian Schiff, “But under no plausible interpretation of that term does the agency have authority”
Wendelgass worries if the law loosens the definition of a wetland – there could be far-reaching consequences.
“Really what’s at risk here is the drinking water for millions of people, wetlands that protect millions of people from flooding,” said Wendelgass. “The beneficiaries of this are really going to be oil and gas industry, big developers that really want to be able to develop every last lint inch of properties and not bother to protect wetlands and small streams among the case is huge.”
The court will make their finally decisions over the next several months, with rulings expected by June of next year.
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