Supreme Court takes EPA case that could narrow Clean Water Act

Jan 25, 2022

The Supreme Court will take up a challenge to the Clean Water Act that could narrow the law’s reach in ways long sought by businesses and home builders.

The justices said Monday that they will consider, probably in the term beginning in October, a long-running dispute involving an Idaho couple who already won once at the Supreme Court in an effort to build a home near Priest Lake. The Environmental Protection Agency says there are wetlands on the couple’s roughly half-acre lot, which brings it under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, and thus requires a permit.


The case raises the question of the test that courts should use to determine what constitutes “waters of the United States,” which the Clean Water Act was passed to protect in 1972.


In a 2006 case called Rapanos v. U.S., the court could not muster a majority opinion. Four justices, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the provision means water on the property in question must have a connection to a river, lake or other waterway.

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