America’s top court has dramatically reduced the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate water pollution across the country. The ruling centred on whether bogs, marshes and wetlands should be included as “water” in the 1972 Clean Water Act. Courts since the mid-1970s agreed that they should be; the Supreme Court’s new view is that pollution only requires a permit if it is going into bodies of water that are “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing” such as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes. Richard Lazarus from Harvard Law School says the consequences of the ruling from the conservative-majority court are “potentially enormous”, removing millions of miles of wetlands from the law’s protection. It comes less than a year after the court restricted the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions from power plants.
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