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The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a claim that the Memphis, Tennessee, area has been taking water that belongs to Mississippi from an underground aquifer that sits beneath parts of both states.
Mississippi initiated the lawsuit against Tennessee, the City of Memphis, and Memphis Light, Gas & Water for damages related to the pumping of groundwater by the City of Memphis from the Middle Claiborne Aquifer. The aquifer actually is underneath 8 different states.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion that while Mississippi “contends that it has sovereign ownership of all groundwater beneath its surface, so equitable apportionment ought not to apply. We see things differently.”
The ruling has led to liberals freaking out that the Supreme Court is about to “blow up the Clean Water Act.”
In a fear-driven report from Mother Jones, the far-left outlet claimed that a “pending case could eliminate protections for 80 percent of southwestern streams.”
The outlet detailed reports about the Rillito River in Tucson, Arizona, which is mostly dry between October and July, but springs to life in the other months.
The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case of Sackett vs. Environmental Protection Agency and “their decision could yank many of the Southwest’s waterways out from under federal jurisdiction, ripping the guts out of the Clean Water Act just in time for its 50th birthday this year,” the outlet added.
The outlet reported that the SCOTUS decision in the Tennessee v. Mississippi case and the argument over the “underground aquifer” could play a huge role in this case and the Clean Water Act:
The specific case dates back to 2007, when EPA officials ordered Chantell and Michael Sackett to stop backfilling their soggy half-acre lot on the shores of Idaho’s Priest Lake, where they wanted to build a cabin. The EPA had determined the wetlands were “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, and therefore protected by the Clean Water Act. The Sacketts disagreed and took the feds to court. As the case wound its way through the legal system, the Sacketts’ cabin site transformed into the front line of a 50-year ideological battle over the definition of what constitutes legally decreed “waters.” The court’s decision—expected early next year—will have especially weighty implications for the arid West.
For years, the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers—the agencies charged with enforcing the Clean Water Act—agreed that everything from arroyos to prairie potholes to sloughs to mudflats fell under the heading of WOTUS, as long as their destruction or degradation might ultimately affect the nation’s traditionally navigable waters. It was a broad definition, and it gave the agencies latitude to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” as Congress mandated when it passed the act in 1972.
SCOTUS has considered WOTUS a handful of times over the decades, tinkering with the definition in ways that have sometimes only further muddied the waters. The EPAs of various presidential administrations made their own adjustments based on their political leanings: Industry-friendly folks tended to exclude as much as they possibly could, while greener ones took a more inclusive tack.
The Clean Water Act “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. Clean Water Act became the Act’s common name with amendments in 1972,” the EPA’s website states.
“Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. EPA has also developed national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained,” the website added.