Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, representing New York, strongly criticized the Supreme Court’s recent unanimous ruling that limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate bodies of water. Despite the consensus among the justices, Schumer referred to the court as a “MAGA” court, insinuating a connection to the Make America Great Again movement.
The ruling in question pertained to the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS), a term used to determine the extent of federal protection for water bodies. The Supreme Court concluded that WOTUS should only include water with a “continuous surface connection” to larger bodies of water in order to warrant protection.
This decision overturned a previous attempt by the Biden administration to broadly interpret the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), which would have allowed for regulation of wetlands, lakes, ponds, streams, and other “relatively permanent” waterways.
Schumer expressed his disappointment with the ruling on Twitter, stating, “This MAGA Supreme Court continues to undermine our nation’s environmental laws.” He went on to suggest that the decision would result in increased water pollution and destruction of wetlands.
In a separate case related to the ruling, an Idaho couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett, were involved in a legal battle with the EPA over their attempt to build near a wetland. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision resulted in the Sacketts being awarded damages. Justice Alito, delivering the majority opinion, highlighted the EPA’s order for the Sacketts to restore the site or face significant penalties.
While the unanimous ruling related to the Sacketts’ case, the court’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act regarding the government’s definition of water sources was divided along ideological lines, with a 5-4 split.
Republicans and business groups celebrated the decision as a victory against what they view as excessive federal regulation and overreach. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who led a group of 26 states supporting the Sacketts in an amicus brief, applauded their “big win” at the Supreme Court. He emphasized his commitment to defending against federal overreach, citing a previous successful injunction against the Biden administration’s WOTUS policy.
In response to the ruling, the White House expressed concern, asserting that it would set the country back and potentially jeopardize clean drinking water sources for farmers, businesses, and millions of Americans. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre assured that Vice President Biden would use every legal means at his disposal to ensure access to safe drinking water for all 50 states.