Florida's Vanishing Wetlands
and the Failure of No Net Loss

Obama administration tries fixing Supreme Court's wetlands "bungle"

Posted on April 28, 2011 9:02 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

The Obama administration has gotten pretty serious about the Clean Water Act lately. First the EPA launches the first-ever survey of the condition of the nation's wetlands.

Now it's trying to cut through the murk of two Supreme Court cases that Clean Water Act sponsor John Dingell once described as a "bungle."

Those two cases, Rapanos vs. U.S. and SWANCC vs. U.S., "produced a broad consensus of opinion, virtually unheard of when it comes to wetlands regulation, that the Supreme Court had made things worse, rather than better," a legal scholar told the New York Times recently.

This week EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled a new policy on wetlands and stream jursidiction under the act -- policies designed to clear up the mess.

"Once finalized, the regulations will apply federal water quality standards to a range of waterways, including the headwaters of lakes and rivers as well as intermittent streams," the Washington Post reported today. And the Los Angeles Times said it "would broaden federal jurisdiction over small tributaries, seasonal streams and nearby wetlands" that are "not connected to traditional navigable waters."

Farm and industry groups have already begun complaining that this is a move by the federal government to extend its regulatory reach far beyond what the law allows.

But as we found in researching "Paving Paradise, that's not true. The sponsors of the original Clean Water Act said explicitly that their goal was to cover all the waters of the United States -- all of them, not just the ones connected to navigable waterways.

“Thus, this new definition clearly encompasses all water bodies, including main streams and their tributaries, for water quality purposes," Dingell said in 1972. "No longer are the old, narrow definitions of navigability . . . going to govern matters covered by this bill." Funny how the Supreme Court justices never seemed to catch onto that point.

Clean Water Act turns 40

Posted on Oct. 18, 2012 8:50 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

Today marks the 40th anniversary of passage of the Clean Water Act, one of the most remarkable, far-reaching and contentious ...

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Supreme Court gets a chance to botch another wetlands case

Posted on Jan. 8, 2012 9 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the somewhat tangled case of Mike and Chantell Sackett , whose ...

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U.S. wetlands are "at a tipping point" -- and worse off than report says

Posted on Oct. 13, 2011 10:05 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

The U.S. Interior Department issued its latest report on the status and trends of the nation's wetlands last week, and ...

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New study shows Supreme Court decision left wetlands vulnerable

Posted on Sept. 13, 2011 8:07 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

Last week the Environmental Law Institute released an extensive new study on the state of the nation's wetlands in the ...

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House casts historic vote to yank EPA's Clean Water Act authority

Posted on July 13, 2011 9:57 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

In a historic vote late Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to yank the Environmental Protection Agency's authority over ...

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