Latest Supreme Court Indecision on Clean Water Further Confuses Federal Protections

Refusal to consider government-requested appeal to clarify scope of Clean Water Act heightens need for new legislation to better protect wetlands

WASHINGTON – As the Supreme Court announced December 1, 2008 that it will not be considering a government-requested appeal in an Alabama case that could have clarified the scope of the Clean Water Act, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership amplified its calls for Congress to advance new comprehensive clean water protection legislation.

Without comment, the Supreme Court denied review of two appeals of a case, McWane Inc vs. U.S., that stemmed from the court’s divided 2006 Rapanos-Carabell decision.

The Supreme Court's refusal to reconsider the McWane case leaves it to lower federal courts to continue to try to answer the question of how to interpret the high court's splintered 2006 opinion. The justices' 4-1-4 decision on the scope of the Clean Water Act in 2006 has generated conflicting interpretations from lower courts and regulators.
The regulatory uncertainty created by the 2006 ruling reportedly has caused the Environmental Protection Agency to scale back its enforcement of Clean Water Act violations.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision today not to clarify what wetlands the federal government should be protecting in this country,” said TRCP President and CEO George Cooper, “it is clearer now more than ever that we need Congress to pass new legislation that reestablishes strong, unambiguous coverage for a vital resource that is slipping through our fingers.”

Throughout 2008, TRCP has educated sportsmen and other citizens on this issue and the importance of wetlands and clean water through its “We Are Wetlands” campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign is a petition to the new president calling for quick action in restoring those federal protections that have been lost.
“We’re seeking at least 80,000 signatures – one for every acre of natural wetlands we lose each year,” said TRCP Initiative Manager Geoff Mullins. “We simply want to restore the clean water protections that served this country well for the 30 years prior to these confusing court decisions.”

Visit for more information on the campaign and to sign the petition.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.