In a time when we see the consequences of corporations decimating the beauty, the harmony, and the value of our natural landscape, we ought to be doing everything we can to fight back and protect the earth. The conservative-led Supreme Court, however, believes otherwise.
On Thursday, the court ruled 5–4 to weaken the already whittled-down Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate water pollution.
The question at hand involved defining “waters of the United States” that qualify for protection by the Clean Water Act. And the court held that the 51-year-old CWA does not enable the EPA to regulate discharges into some wetlands near other bodies of water.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion that decided the agency has jurisdiction over wetlands only if they have “a continuing surface connection” to larger bodies of water.
Almost 20 years ago, the court ruled that wetlands are covered by the CWA if they have a ”significant nexus” to regulated bodies of water. Various groups, including property and business organizations and fossil fuel interests, have since rallied to weaken that definition—and on Thursday, they ultimately succeeded.
The court decision follows twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump rolling back updates to the CWA made under President Obama. Trump limited federal protection to cover only “permanent” bodies of water and not other smaller but still significant waterways, like streams of water that flow only part of the year. Trump’s rule gave states greater authority to determine what should be regulated under the CWA, which meant less protection for our climate.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the CWA’s jurisdiction is now all the weaker. Any seasonal streams of ebbing and flowing waterways can be more readily polluted at will by some of the most callously destructive interests in American society.
What is at stake? Look no further than East Palestine, Ohio, where a disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment months ago has to this day left residents confused, sick, and disenchanted by the government. The derailment implicated and polluted numerous waterways—some that interlink with adjacent smaller streams and wetlands. While residents even now fear corporate-driven cover-ups of more environmental damage than meets the eye, the conservative-led Supreme Court has made it even easier for communities across America to be upended, just as East Palestine was.