Court Limits Scope of Clean Water Act
In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of the federal Clean Water Act in a case regarding federal protection of wetlands areas.
The high court ruling, in the case of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County vs. the US Army Corps of Engineers, overturned an earlier appeals court ruling on the question of whether a federal agency can restrict land use on remote wetlands not connected with a body of water.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist's majority opinion said permitting the government to claim federal jurisdiction over ponds and mudflats would also result in significant impairment of the states' traditional and primary power over land and water use.
Dissenting justices contended the court's action would weaken federal safeguards against toxic water.
The case stemmed from the Corps of Engineers' 1986 denial of a permit for the solid waste group to build a landfill on a 500-acre site including about 17 acres of wetlands.