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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects
Unlimited Federal Control of Wetlands--Ruling
Reverses Decision in Michigan Landowner’s Case
Washington,DC; June 19, 2006: The United States Supreme Court today rejected
the federal government’s efforts to control all wetlands in the country,
reversing lower courts’ decisions against a Michigan man who moved sand on
The decision came in Rapanos v. United States.
“Today’s decision is a victory for balanced environmental protection—common
sense and the rule of law have prevailed,” said Reed Hopper, a principal
attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Mr. Rapanos.
“The Court rejected the idea that there are no limits on the federal
government’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. It is not the
role of the federal government to micromanage every pond, puddle, and ditch
in our country.”
In a 5-4 decision, the Court said there has to be a “substantial” connection
between wetlands and truly navigable waters for federal regulation to apply.
No one disputes the federal government’s authority over waterways that can
be used for shipping or commerce and wetlands adjacent to those waterways.
But, in Mr. Rapanos’ case, the wetlands are 20 miles from any navigable
“The Court has repudiated overreaching by the federal government,” Mr.
Hopper said. “The federal government for too long has trampled on the
authority of state and local governments to make land use decisions.”
“We agree with Chief Justice Roberts that today’s decision is ‘another
defeat for the agency [Army Corps of Engineers]’ and ‘its essentially
boundless view of the scope of its power,’” Hopper said.
This case comes five years after the Supreme Court rebuked federal officials
for asserting authority over small inland ponds in Illinois. In that case,
the Court said the water was outside the jurisdiction of the federal
Hundreds of water agencies that deliver clean drinking water to tens of
millions of Americans supported Mr. Rapanos’ position because they have seen
the continuing encroachment of the federal government over water—areas left
to state and local governments for the last 200 years.
“This case was about the abuse of the law by federal agencies,” Mr. Hopper
said. “It was never about clean water.”
“Local agencies on the front lines of providing clean water joined us in
this case because they have seen the continuing encroachment of the federal
government over local water use by the federal government,” Mr. Hopper said.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Founded in 1973, Pacific Legal Foundation is the nation’s oldest and largest
public interest legal organization dedicated to property rights protection,
limited government, and individual rights.
To arrange interviews on this issue, journalists and producers may contact
PLF's Media Director, HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"Dawn Collier,
at (916) 419-7111.
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Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our minds--that we cannot be
happy without being free--that we cannot be free without being secure in our
property--that we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent
others may as by right take it away. - John Dickenson
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