WASHINGTON - June 19 - The U.S. Supreme Court issued a split decision today in two Clean Water Act cases, Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s hard out here for a fish,” said Christy Leavitt, U.S. PIRG Clean Water Advocate. “The Supreme Court’s decision opens the door for polluters and developers to continue to attack longstanding Clean Water Act protections. Today’s split decision makes it more important than ever for Congress to reaffirm the broad scope of the Clean Water Act’s protections.”
In the two cases, developers in Michigan sought to destroy wetlands for construction projects, a shopping center in Rapanos and a condominium complex in Carabell. The Justices ruled 5-4 to return the cases to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for further proceedings. The Justices wrote five opinions, none of which received a majority support. Five Justices rejected Justice Scalia’s opinion that the Clean Water Act is limited to waterways that are “permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water,” and excludes protection for waters that are intermittent and ephemeral, which flow for part of the year.
“To ensure that future generations are able to fish, boat and swim in America’s waterways, we must safeguard all of our waters from backyard streams to the Mississippi River,” said Leavitt. “After today’s split Court decision, Congress should act swiftly to reaffirm its original intent in passing the Clean Water Act to protect all waters in the U.S.”
The Clean Water Authority Restoration Act (H.R. 1356 and S. 912), sponsored by Representatives Oberstar (D-MN), Leach (R-IA), Dingell (D-MI) and Boehlert (R-NY) and 155 other members in the House and Senator Feingold (D-WI) and 14 other Senators in the Senate, would reaffirm the broad scope of Clean Water Act protections as originally intended by Congress.
“It is now more important than ever for Congress to pass the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act,” concluded Leavitt. “We urge all Senators and Representatives support this important legislation.”