Supreme Court hears lively debate on protecting wetlands, led in part by Justice Jackson — and a lot of folks here disagree
This story is by the Associated Press reporters Rachel VanDerhei and Michael Balsamo
The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over whether to uphold the federal government’s decades-old attempt to protect millions of acres of wetlands nationwide from development, including commercial fishing, fishing and tourism, and on their waters from dumping of dredge material.
The court was asked to weigh whether the government has a strong enough legal claim for protecting the wetlands that is broad enough to encompass commercial fishing. Other wetlands could include agricultural and wetland areas that might be used to grow food but that may be damaged by development.
The cases heard Tuesday involved efforts by the federal government to stop the construction of an oil and gas drilling platform just outside the wetlands near New Jersey and by a man hoping to build his home on a wetland in Florida.
The issue came to the center of the court’s 2014 campaign rhetoric after President Barack Obama issued an executive order protecting several federal wetland areas and declared the country’s wetlands a national treasure.
The order was a rebuke by the Obama administration to the federal government’s efforts to limit or ban mining, oil and gas drilling and other industries that use the federal wetlands as an impoundment for their wastes.
The case was brought by four environmental groups that say they will continue to challenge new construction near the newly protected national wetlands. The companies are saying that construction already is going forward and it’s safe and that the government’s wetland protections don’t go far enough.
The case is closely watched by those who believe the nation’s wetlands were once a source of fish and other food by the thousands. More than 200 of the nation’s wetlands have been protected by federal law.
Sandra Williams is one of the residents who will be affected if the case is decided for the environmental group. She and neighbors fear that the government’s