EPA Amends Controversial Water Rule After Supreme Court Decision

A controversial rule implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency has been amended following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined it went too far in regulating water on private property.

At the crux of the Sackett v. EPA decision was a case involving an Idaho couple prevented from building a home on land that they already owned due to what the agency asserted — under its broad “waters of the United States” definition — was the presence of wetlands.

The Supreme Court ruled in the couple’s favor in May and the EPA confirmed this week that it had amended the rule that had widened the scope for what qualifies as wetlands. Specifically, the revision applied to the definition of “adjacent.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan issued a statement in response, expressing disappointment in the ruling and acknowledging “an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners.”

He went on to confirm that the agency has “moved quickly to finalize amendments to the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to provide a clear path forward that adheres to the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

Of course, some critics say the EPA’s rule amendment does not go far enough to fit the confines of the Supreme Court ruling, complaining that the agency did not allow for public comment before unveiling its new definition.

Daren Bakst, who serves as the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute Center for Energy and Environment, was among those who balked at the updated rule.

“The entire process has been disgraceful starting with the agencies finalizing the January rule even though they knew the Supreme Court was going to be issuing an opinion that would render most of its rule moot,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened.”

With the support of a handful of Democrats, Republican lawmakers were able to pass a measure earlier this year to toss the Biden administration’s “waters of the United States” rule, but the president ultimately vetoed the bill when it landed on his desk.

A pair of GOP lawmakers — Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri and David Rouzer of North Carolina — responded to the EPA’s recent move with a statement declaring that it “barely pays lip service to the Sackett decision.”