Supreme Court ruling provides clarity for landowners
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its ruling on Sackett vs. EPA and a Minnesota ag lawyer says the decision provides more clarity on the Clean Water Act.
Kale Van Bruggen with the Rinke-Noonan Law Firm tells Brownfield the ruling defined adjacent wetlands, an area of concern for farmers and ranchers.
“This court ruling is similar to a case ruling from 2008 that says when it comes to adjacent wetlands, you first have to establish the water body its adjacent to isn’t otherwise a regulated Waters of the United States,” says Van Bruggen. “And adjacency means that wetland is so wrapped up in its geographic location right next to the water body so it’s hard to tell where the water body ends and the wetland starts.”
Van Bruggen says having clarity is important for any landowner.
“You can look at your field and decide which waterbodies, streams, lakes or rivers are obviously regulated and then, you can determine which wetlands are immediately adjacent.”
In Sackett vs. EPA, the justices unanimously reversed and remanded a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the Sacketts to have a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a house next to an Idaho lake.
Van Bruggen says it’s important to note SCOTUS rejected the significant nexus test, an analysis used to determine whether certain water is subject to the Clean Water Act. And the remand means the SCOTUS opinion will go back to the lower court to determine whether the wetlands are jurisdictional and fines are valid. Van Bruggen says the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to dismiss the litigation.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan says he is disappointed by the court’s decision and the updated Waters of the United States rule will guide the agency forward as next steps are considered.
Van Bruggen says it’s not clear what will happen with the Biden administration’s WOTUS rule and the litigation that’s been filed will have to play out, but a legislative fix is possible.