The EPA removes federal protections for most of the country’s wetlands
The Environmental Protection Agency removed federal protections for a majority of the country's wetlands on Tuesday to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The EPA and Department of the Army announced a final rule amending the definition of protected "waters of the United States" in light of the decision in Sackett v. EPA in May, which narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act and the agency's power to regulate waterways and wetlands.
Developers and environmental groups have for decades argued about the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act in protecting waterways and wetlands.
"While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
A 2006 Supreme Court decision determined that wetlands would be protected if they had a "significant nexus" to major waterways. This year's court decision undid that standard. The EPA's new rule "removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected," the agency said.
In May, Justice Samuel Alito said the navigable U.S. waters regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act do not include many previously regulated wetlands. Writing the court's decision, he said the law includes only streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and wetlands with a "continuous surface connection to those bodies."