The state of Alaska has filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting an Idaho couple’s legal battle against the EPA over property rights and the Clean Water Act.
Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor is arguing that the outcome could impact how Alaskans use and develop their personal property.
Taylor has joined attorneys general from 20 other states in filing the brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Michael and Chantell Sackett’s case against the Environmental Protection Agency. In Sackett v. EPA, the Idaho couple is asking the nation’s highest court to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act under the EPA, as it involves the rights of private landowners.
Their request is not a guarantee that the high court will take up a case.
“As things stand, the Clean Water Act usurps state authority in otherwise local water management matters,” Taylor and the other AGs wrote.
They assert that courts and agencies now extend the Clean Water Act to “puddles, ditches and drains in a way that neither the statute nor the Constitution can support.”
They are calling for “a workable, reasonable definition of ‘waters of the United States.’”
Taylor said in a prepared statement Tuesday that the Idaho couple’s legal battle could decide whether the federal government has the authority and jurisdiction to regulate marshy areas and drainage ditches on private property in Alaska.
“Without court action, the federal government could easily extend its reach and give EPA authority over lands never intended for federal oversight under the Clean Water Act,” Taylor said.
Defining waters of the U.S.
Sackett v. EPA is a case over the definition of “waters of the U.S.,” also known as WOTUS.
The case is timely, because the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are expected to issue a new rule on what defines U.S. waters, according to E&E News, which reports on energy and the environment.
In this circumstance, the AGs are requesting that the Supreme Court clarify the definition of waters of the United States, as it was interpreted by the lower court.
“If left unchecked by the court, much of Alaska’s wetlands would be exposed to federal overreach,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
The attorneys general are asking whether a 2006 case the Supreme Court heard should be revisited. In Rapanos v. the United States, the high court held that the Clean Water Act does not regulate all wetlands. But the court lacked a majority opinion.
“As the federal government moves to increase control over Alaskans by expansively defining WOTUS, it’s more important than ever to fight to preserve our autonomy,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a prepared statement.
“Alaska holds nearly half our nation’s water and over 60% of our nation’s wetlands,” Dunleavy said.
In addition to Alaska, 20 states joined the brief. They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The Clean Water Act “has an important role to play in ensuring clean water for our country’s interstate waters,” Taylor and the other state AGs wrote. “But the Act should not be allowed to engulf every other water law.”