U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Wetlands Protections

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The new Bush Supreme Court fell just one vote short of destroying the Clean Water Act and the protection of millions of acres of wetlands on Monday, thanks only to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan and confirmed to the court in 1988 after the nomination of Robert Bork was defeated in the U.S. Senate.

According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government can block development on hundreds of millions of acres of wetlands, even on land miles away from waterways, as long as regulators prove a connection to the waterways.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his first major environmental case, came up one vote short of dramatically limiting the scope of the landmark Clean Water Act. At the same time, property rights advocates won a small victory with a new test, authored by moderate Kennedy, for determining what land can be regulated. Virtually any land in America would be covered under the government’s interpretation of the law, Roberts and the court’s other three conservatives complained in an opinion.

The court’s four liberal members said the conservatives would have opened up sensitive wetlands to polluters. It was a dramatic conclusion to a pair of property rights cases the justices agreed to review last fall, just days after Roberts joined the court. The Bush administration defended the law and had urged the court to stay out of the case.

Now say politics doesn’t matter? One person’s vote doesn’t count?

© 2006, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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