Supreme Court EPA Ruling: An Environmental Setback and Call for New York’s Leadership

May 25, 2023

Today, the Supreme Court ruled (in a 5 to 4 decision) to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority, narrowing the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, thereby reducing the agency’s power to regulate wetlands and waterways and limit pollution. This ruling marks the second major decision in a year where the court’s ultra-conservative majority has curtailed the EPA’s environmental oversight, previously restricting its power to curb emissions from power plants.

This statement in response can be attributed to Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates NY.


“The Supreme Court’s recent decision, narrowing the EPA’s jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways and wetlands, is nothing short of an environmental tragedy. A clear disregard for decades of legal precedent, it insults our shared responsibility to protect vital ecosystems and ignores the far-reaching implications of water quality and flood control.

This disappointing decision highlights why we need strong state leadership to protect our environment. In this spirit, we implore Governor Hochul and the New York State legislature to act swiftly and decisively. The class C streams bill—A.4681 (Glick) | S.1725 (Harckham)—presents a golden opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to environmental preservation and proactive measures against pollution. With the power to protect 41,000 miles of crucial waterways, its importance cannot be overstated.

New York can also fast-track new regulations to safeguard over 1 million acres of wetlands across NYS, implementing a landmark law enacted in the 2022 state budget. The New York Department of Conservation is currently working on those regulations.

The health of our streams and wetlands directly impacts the safety of our drinking water. It also underpins a thriving recreation economy that supports thousands of jobs across the state. As climate change intensifies, these streams and wetlands are our bulwark against catastrophic storms and devastating floods.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is a wake-up call. We can’t afford to backtrack on environmental protections. We must prevent contamination at its source, rather than dealing with the costly aftermath. And New York must lead the way.