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The Supreme Court on Thursday made it harder for the federal government to police water pollution in a decision that strips protections from wetlands that are isolated from larger bodies of water.
It’s the second decision in as many years in which a conservative majority of the court narrowed the reach of environmental regulations.
The justices boosted property rights over concerns about clean water in a ruling in favor of an Idaho couple who sought to build a house near Priest Lake in the state’s panhandle.
They objected when federal officials identified a soggy portion of the property as a wetlands that required them to get a permit before building.
By a 5-4 vote, the court said that wetlands can only be regulated if they have a “continuous surface connection” to larger, regulated bodies of water.
The court jettisoned the 17-year-old opinion by their former colleague, Anthony Kennedy, that allowed regulation of wetlands that have a “significant nexus” to the larger waterways.
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