Supreme Court hears lively debate on protecting wetlands, led in part by Justice Jackson
The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether the government has the power to protect wetlands through a rule issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The justices, divided on the question, took the case after the Trump administration issued a regulation that prohibited states from requiring companies to reduce the size of wetlands. In response, states and municipalities sued, arguing the regulation was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” under the Administrative Procedure Act. They said the rule was a “substantially more severe change,” and so should go through the notice-and-comment process.
The case involves the government’s interest in protecting endangered species, such as the bald eagle, and the nation’s interest in protecting wetlands.
The argument centered on whether the government acted unlawfully in making the changes to the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act that were announced in February 2018. That came after the Trump administration proposed to change the administration’s own interpretation of those laws.
The case is one of two that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider since President Trump took office.
The other is a challenge by the League of Women Voters in a state and two cities to a requirement that they get permission from the government to cut down on wetlands that would reduce flooding risks. The case involves a regulation that requires a state to obtain permission from the Army Corps of Engineers before cutting down on federally protected wetlands. The justices agreed to review that case in April 2019.
Trump nominated Trump environmental chief Scott Pruitt to heads the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump also nominated Thomas Perrelli, who currently heads the Water Resources Council, to be under secretary of agriculture. In an announcement, Perrelli said Perrelli believes federal agencies “must be better stewards of the land that has become our nation’s lifeblood.”
In an interview in May 2018 with the Environmental Working Group, Perrelli said, “Water is a huge, huge issue. It’s going to consume us for our own survival.”