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Attack on Wetlands?

The New York Times, USA Today, Financial Times, The Associated Press and many other news outlets are reporting on the US Supreme Court's decision to hear a case over the federal government's power to protect the environment and another two cases involving environmentalists and property owners.

From the USA Today article:

In one of three cases that will be argued at the court next year, a Michigan man, John A. Rapanos, was convicted of violating the Clean Water Act for filling his wetlands with sand to make the land ready for development. He also lost a civil suit, which is at issue in his appeal.

In a second case that will be argued with the Rapanos appeal, justices will decide if the Army Corps of Engineers had the authority to restrict the development of a condominium in Macomb County, Mich. The government contends the work could pollute Lake St. Clair, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Justices also agreed to hear a third case involving the same law, the 1972 Clean Water Act. It was filed by the owner of hydroelectric dam projects in Maine which provide electricity for the company's paper mill. Lawyers for S.D. Warren Co. argue that the company should not be required to get permits for some of its operations.

As it has always been in these kinds of cases, the conflict is between the power of the federal government to enact and enforce environmental protection laws and the rights of individual property owners.

Meanwhile, the AP mentions the added relevance of these cases to the aftermath of one widely reported event.

More immediately, it would affect areas recovering from Katrina, said Robin Craig, an expert on the Clean Water Act at Indiana University School of Law. “With swampy areas, you could see this same issue arising. Are these rebuilding efforts going to have to go through Army Corps of Engineers permitting?”

David Stout, “Justices Take Case Disputing U.S. Power Over Private Wetlands.” The New York Times (11 October 2005)
“Supreme Court considers limiting wetlands regulation.” AP via USA Today (11 October 2005)
Patti Waldmeir, “US court to review two cases covering wetlands.” Financial Times (11 October 2005)
Gina Holland, “Court Takes Up Landmark Wetlands Case.” AP via Yahoo! News (11 October 2005)

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