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Oklahoma officials praise U.S. Supreme Court decision to limit scope of Clean Water Act

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot enforce the Clean Water Act on wetlands that aren’t physically connected to lakes and rivers, even if they feed into those water bodies. The decision inSackett v. EPA invalidates the EPA’s recently expanded definition of the Clean Water Act’s scope.

The Sacketts are an Idaho couple who bought a piece of land and started hauling in dirt to build a house. Because their property contained wetlands that feed into a nearby lake, the EPA said they were violating the Clean Water Act, which protects the “navigable waters of the United States.”

The Sacketts sued, saying the wetlands on their property didn’t fall under that category. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with them last week, overturning an earlier circuit court ruling and affirming that the Clean Water Act only protects wetlands with a physical surface connection to lakes and rivers.

EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement, the court’s decision “erodes longstanding clean water protections.”

But Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur also praised the court for lifting what she says are unnecessary regulations on Oklahoma farmers.

State Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he’s pleased with the decision, which comes after Oklahoma joined 24 other states in protesting the EPA’s “waters of the United States” definition.

“A contrary ruling [...] would have given the federal government far too much power throughout Oklahoma,” Drummond wrote in a statement. “It would have undermined our own efforts at conservation.”

After a decade of back-and-forth between presidential administrations, this decision changes the scope of the Clean Water Act once again. Regan said the EPA will continue to work on a “common-sense and science-based definition of ‘waters of the United States.’”

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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