Virginia wetlands protections remain robust despite Supreme Court ruling, say enviro groups
Following a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that narrows environmental protections for wetlands, environmental groups say there will be little change in Virginia because of the state’s strong wetlands regulations.
“Theoretically, Virginia has stronger water quality protection than the federal government,” said Peggy Sanner, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Under Virginia wetlands laws and regulations, she said, the state “should be able to continue to protect all the waters of the state, including those that may not be in the federal protections.”
On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the wetlands protections in the Clean Water Act apply only to bodies of water with a “continuous surface connection” to larger navigable water bodies, a decision that will greatly reduce the number of wetlands the government can protect.
Previously, wetlands connected to larger bodies through groundwater and intermittent bodies of water that might dry up during portions of the year were protected under the law, which regulates pollution discharges into the nation’s waters.
The case was brought by the Sackett family in Idaho, who argued they shouldn’t have to obtain an EPA permit to build a house on their property. The EPA had said a permit was necessary because water from the land would run into a ditch that fed into a creek, which fed into a navigable lake.
The family challenged the decision and, after an initial loss in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, won its case in the nation’s highest court.
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