Supreme Court Limits EPA's Power to Address Water Pollution

Adam Liptak / The New York Times
Supreme Court Limits EPA's Power to Address Water Pollution The question for the justices was how to determine which wetlands qualify as such waters. (photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

The justices ruled that many wetlands are not covered by the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court on Thursday curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to police water pollution, ruling that the Clean Water Act does not allow the agency to regulate discharges into some wetlands near bodies of water.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for five justices, held that the law covers only wetlands “with a continuous surface connection” to those waters.

The decision was a second major blow to the E.P.A.’s authority and to the power of administrative agencies generally. Last year, the court limited the E.P.A.’s power to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.


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