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Supreme Court strikes down Biden policy restricting citizens from building on their own land in order to ‘protect water’

The lawsuit originated with two Idaho residents, Michael and Chantell Sackett, who were told by the EPA that they are not allowed to build a home on their own property because it is close to a US wetland.

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Joshua Young North Carolina
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On Thursday, the Supreme Court rule that struck down a policy coming out of the Biden administration that saw the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopting a broad definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) to restrict citizens' use of their own property. 

According to Fox News, the lawsuit came from two Idaho residents, Michael and Chantell Sackett, who were told by the EPA that they are not allowed to build a home on their own property because it was close to a US wetland and invoked 1972's Clean Water Act (CWA). Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority decision and said, "The EPA ordered the Sacketts to restore the site, threatening penalties of over $40,000 per day. The EPA classified the wetlands on the Sacketts’ lot as 'waters of the United States' because they were near a ditch that fed into a creek, which fed into Priest Lake, a navigable, intrastate lake. The Sacketts sued, alleging that their property was not 'waters of the United States.'"

In the 5-4 decision, SCOTUS ruled that the definition of Waters of the United States must involve a "continuous surface connection" between the waters.

"Understanding the CWA to apply to wetlands that are distinguishable from otherwise covered 'waters of the United States' would substantially broaden (existing statute) to define 'navigable waters' as 'waters of the United States and adjacent wetlands,'" Alito said.

The now-rejected Biden administration definition of WOTUS was related to an Obama administration interpretation of the Clean Water Act that was as broad as possible concerning water sources in the US. Biden's rule gave the federal government broad regulation over lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands across the US that were on private property.

The rule started in the Obama administration, was repealed by former President Donald Trump, and brought back by Biden in December of 2022, now struck down by SCOTUS.

In April, several trade organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, and 24 states were allowed to pause the rule's implementation by a federal judge.

Politico reports, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "The EPA clearly overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act by restricting private property owners from developing their land despite being far from the nearest navigable water."

In April, several trade organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, and 24 states were allowed to pause the rule's implementation by a federal judge.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia said, "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."

"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. 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," added Capito, who is the ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"The Court’s opinion also upends the Biden Administration’s overreaching WOTUS rule," said the Waters Advocacy Coalition. "After decades of attempts to expand the federal government’s power over private land, America’s job creators and farmers can proceed with more certainty in delivering critical services our economy depends on, from growing healthy foods to building affordable homes and producing domestic energy."

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