Supreme Court narrows WOTUS definition

By Joe Bousquin | Construction Dive

Dive Brief:

  • In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday sided with an Idaho landowner couple and against the Environmental Protection Agency, effectively narrowing the scope of what types of bodies of water the federal government may regulate under the Clean Water Act. 
  • In Sackett v. EPA, a case that hinged on the definition of the term “waters of the United States” or WOTUS, justices held that the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers overstepped their jurisdictions by claiming oversight on a wetland located on the property of Michael and Chantell Sackett.
  • The ruling also effectively invalidates a Biden administration definition finalized late last year that attempted to expand which waters fell under WOTUS to those that shared a “significant nexus” with protected waterways, a move construction lawyers said could have added costs of up to $1 million per acre for construction site preparation. 

Dive Insight:

Several building groups applauded the decision. 

“Today’s decision provides long-awaited certainty for property owners and housing providers and properly curbs federal overreach,” said the National Apartment Association and National Multifamily Housing Council in a joint statement. “The apartment industry strongly supports protecting our water resources, but undue and confusing regulations would exacerbate our nationwide housing affordability crisis.”


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