In Sackett v. EPA, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers wrongfully claimed oversight on wetlands owned by Chantell and Michael Sackett. The verdict was issued on Thursday, May 25.
The Court ruled unanimously, 9-0, that the Clean Water Act did not apply to the wetlands on the Sacketts’ property, striking down the “significant nexus” test in determining what is considered a Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
Additionally, by a 5-4 vote, the Court adopted a more stringent test for what qualifies as an “adjacent wetland” subject to the Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito concluded that the Clean Water Act applies to wetlands that are “as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States” because they have a “continuous surface connection” with a larger body of water.
The decision will have positive, far-reaching consequences for those in the agricultural industry.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Chris Hoffman commented on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA:
“It’s a good day for Pennsylvania agriculture. We thank the Supreme Court for giving farmers clarity about how they manage their land,” Hoffman said. “We need a common-sense rule that works for agriculture and helps farmers do their job and protects water quality. We’re grateful that the Court acted to rein in the huge overreach of the authority of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. The decision in Sackett v. EPA is as a win for our farmers, who protect their soil, air and water every day, as their legacy to the next generation.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall shared the sentiment.
“AFBF appreciates the Supreme Court justices for their careful consideration of the implications of Sackett v. EPA. 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.
“The justices respect private property rights. It’s now time for the Biden administration to do the same and rewrite the Waters of the United States rule. Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with, but they deserve a rule that provides clarity and doesn’t require a team of attorneys to properly care for their land.”
U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture Glenn “GT” Thompson added the following thoughts on the current WOTUS rule.
“(Thursday’s) unanimous ruling in Sackett v EPA is a victory for America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners. The decision reaffirms the rights of property owners and provides long-needed clarity to rural America. In light of this decision, the Biden Administration should withdraw its flawed final WOTUS rule. It is time to finally put an end to the regulatory whiplash and create a workable rule that promotes clean water while protecting the rights of rural Americans.”