Beveridge & Diamond

Supreme Court Decides Landmark Wetlands Cases

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., June 20, 2006

On June 19, 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling addressing the scope of Clean Water Act (“CWA” of “Act”) authority over remote hydrologic features.  The opinions delivered in the consolidated cases of Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. U. S.  Army Corps of Engineers, 126 S. Ct. 2208 (2006), represent some of the most highly anticipated of the Court’s 2006 term.  Since oral arguments were held on February 21st, the important issues implicated by these cases have been the subject of careful scrutiny, debate, and concern by all levels of government, private landowners, and environmental interest groups alike.  The 5-4 plurality decision for the property owners vacated the rulings of the lower courts in Rapanos and Carabell, which had upheld the extension of federal CWA jurisdiction to the wetlands in both cases.  Unfortunately, while the Court reconfirmed that the federal government’s authority under the Act is not infinite, the decision failed to distill for the regulated community the precise scope of that authority.

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