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CRC News Release

June 19, 2006

For Immediate Release

Contact: Doug Kendall
202 296-6889, x3

Five Justices Reaffirm Broad Congressional Authority to Protect Nation’s Waters

Today, in Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, five justices reaffirmed broad protection for rivers, streams, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.” But the deeply fractured ruling highlights the need for Congress to pass pending legislation that would make crystal clear Congress’ intent to broadly protect our nation’s waters.

Community Rights Counsel (CRC) filed an amicus brief in Rapanos and Carabell in support of these federal safeguards on behalf of the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, an association representing water pollution control officials in all 50 States. This amicus brief, which was cited in Justice Stevens’ dissent, demonstrated that every State is a downstream State that needs the backdrop of federal protection to preserve its lakes, rivers, and streams.

CRC’s Executive Director Doug Kendall said of the ruling: “Today, five justices of the Supreme Court wrote or joined opinions that support broad protection for rivers, streams, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act."

Timothy J. Dowling, CRC Chief Counsel, added: “Today’s ruling, particularly the critical opinion by Justice Kennedy, re jects the call for libertarian judicial activism made by Pacific Legal Foundation and other extremists. Still, Congress needs to clarify and fully restore federal authority to protect our drinking water supplies, streams, and wetlands.”

  • Show Me State
    Doug Kendall & Jennifer Bradley, The New Republic, (June 21, 2006)

Rapanos in Pictures

Michigan developer John Rapanos, the petitioner in Rapanos v. U.S., has been convicted of violating the federal Clean Water Act by dredging and filling over 50 acres of wetlands without a permit.  In complaining about the unfairness of his prosecution, he likes to stand on his drained and now dry property as if this shows that his property was not wet to begin with.   Like the fabled boy who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is now an orphan, it takes chutzpah. 

This series of photographs (see, taken from the files of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Land and Water Management Division, illustrates what really happened at one of the Rapanos sites at issue in the case, which will be decided in the next few weeks by  the Supreme Court. These pictures of the “Pine River” site, which borders a 50’ wide river, show that Rapanos dug trenches seven feet deep and up to 15 feet across—trenches so large they show up in aerial photographs—to drain wetlands.  He then used a bulldozer to fill the former wetlands with sand to completely destroy them. 

These pictures, illustrate the stakes in the Rapanos case.   If wetland destruction of this magnitude is not covered under the Clean Water Act, it will be a devastating blow to efforts to protect our nation’s clean water. Click here for more




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