Saturday, September 24, 2022


The health-care subsidy extension a relief for small businesses; Consumer groups press for a bill to reform credit reporting; and an international group aims to transform how people view peace and conflict.


Condemnation of Russian war on Ukraine continues at the U.N, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there's need for worker training to rebuild Puerto Rico, the House takes on record corporate profits while consumers struggle with inflation.


The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts two winters across the U.S., the Inflation Reduction Act could level the playing field for rural electric co-ops, and pharmacies are dwindling in rural America.

SCOTUS Could Exclude Waterways from Clean Water Protections


Monday, July 25, 2022   

By Kristi Eaton for The Daily Yonder.
Broadcast version by Eric Tegethoff for Northern Rockies News Service for the Public News Service/Daily Yonder Collaboration

A coalition of groups focused on water rights filed a brief in June with the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to keep the court from narrowing the definition of federally protected waters.

Waterkeeper Alliance, San Francisco Baykeeper, Bayou City Waterkeeper, and nearly 50 additional Waterkeeper groups from across the country filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the case Sackett v EPA.

The clean water advocates are asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling about the scope of wetlands protected under the landmark Clean Water Act.

The central question in Sackett v EPA is what standard should apply to determine protection for wetlands that are adjacent to traditional navigable waters and their tributaries. The petitioners in the appeal have asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit's ruling that adjacent wetlands, including those on their Idaho property, merit federal protection, which would advance a narrow interpretation of the CWA. The amicus brief contends that, to achieve the law's objective, it must protect all waters that make up aquatic ecosystems, not just navigable waters. The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall.

"Idaho has unique geographical and hydrologic features that form 'closed basins' which would be excluded from federal pollution protection if Clean Water Act jurisdiction was reduced by constricting the definition of which 'waters of the United States' are federally protected," said Buck Ryan, executive director of Snake River Waterkeeper, in an interview with The Daily Yonder. "We joined in filing the brief to ensure these waterways - which are critical to water quality in the Snake River as well as for endangered species like bull trout - enjoy the federal statutory protections Congress intended in drafting the Act."

The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 to protect the health of the waters of the United States, promote healthy aquatic ecosystems, and regulate the discharge of pollutants into waterways.

In states like Idaho, Ryan said, "where industry and ag-friendly legislatures offer the bare minimum in terms of clean water safeguards, the federal Clean Water Act is the preeminent (and in many cases, only) guarantee of legal protection for rural communities to have fishable, swimmable, and drinkable water."

Kelly Hunter Foster, senior attorney with Waterkeeper Alliance, said many iconic and significant waters across the country lack continuous surface connections to traditionally defined navigable waters and could lose federal clean water protections that have been in place for nearly 50 years if the court were to adopt the petitioners' navigability theories.

"Congress originally designed the CWA to broadly protect all waters of the United States-not only those used for commercial navigation. The scope cannot be narrowed if we are to ensure the integrity of the law and the health of our waterways," Foster said in a press statement.

The Supreme Court's hearing of the challenge to the CWA occurs as the court has revisited long established precedents. Last month the court ruled that the Clean Air Act does not give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blanket regulations against power plants. The Clean Air Act, initially passed in 1963 and revised many times since, was one of the nation's first and most influential environmental laws.

Waterkeeper Alliance Chief Executive Officer Marc Yaggi called the court's interpretation of the Clean Air Act a "gift to polluters and will pose a major threat to clean water."

"The majority's new major questions doctrine handcuffs the federal government's ability to respond to emergencies that weren't specifically contemplated at the time statutes are passed," Yaggi said in a press statement. "The idea that our current dysfunctional Congress might be expected to more directly authorize EPA to broadly 'tackle' the climate emergency is absurd. This sets a dangerous precedent not just for EPA and our climate, but for all agencies and future emergencies."

Albert Lin, a law professor at the University of California Davis who specializes in environmental and natural resources law, said in an interview with The Daily Yonder that the Clear Air Act and Clean Water Act cases seem to be asking two different questions. The Clean Air Act case used the major questions doctrine, he said, and he believes it's unlikely that will be the case in the Clean Water Act case.

"It seems unlikely given that the sort of question at issue in the Clean Water Act case, the extent of the government's regulatory authority over wetlands is an issue that the agencies - EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers - have been grappling with for decades," he said. "And that it's not the sort of situation as in West Virginia vs. EPA, where you had, at least the way the court puts it, EPA asserting this apparently new authority over how kind of energy is produced and distributed and generated."

Also in June, the Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which provided a constitutional basis protecting the right to abortion services.

Kristi Eaton wrote this article for The Daily Yonder.

get more stories like this via email

Nonprofit organizations employed nearly 30,000 Montanans in 2019. (Artur/Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

The work of some nonprofit organizations has only increased with the pandemic and the needs that have come from it. An author and expert in the field …

Social Issues

By Lourdes Medrano for Yes! Media. Broadcast version by Mark Richardson for Arizona News Connection, reporting for the YES! Media-Public News Service …

Social Issues

Hispanic Heritage Month began in mid-September and runs through Oct. 15, and a financial institution in Washington state is finding unique ways to …

Fans of solitude say the route density in Labyrinth Canyon can make it difficult to escape the noise of motorized vehicles. (Bureau of Land Management)


Conservation groups say more needs to be done to protect the natural and cultural resources of Utah's Labyrinth Canyon from off-road vehicles…

Social Issues

Despite being aimed at children in kindergarten through third grade, Florida teachers say what's often referred to as the "Don't Say Gay" law has …

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., says she plans to call a legislative hearing on the practices of credit reporting agencies. (Kalafoto/Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

Consumer groups are pressing for legislation to reform the way credit agencies handle errors on credit reports. The calls to amend the Fair Credit …


A relatively small number of so-called "super emitters" are responsible for 40% of the methane emissions in oil and gas hotspots such as California's …

Social Issues

As "Banned Books Week" comes to a close, Connecticut libraries have been celebrating with great fervor - despite numerous book bans and challenges…


Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member- and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021