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Colorado AG Weiser blasts SCOTUS opinion rolling back federal wetlands protections by U.S. EPA

May 25, 2023, 11:02 am

The office of Attorney General Phil Weiser on Thursday issued the following press release on the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolling back federal safeguards for wetlands under the 50-year-old Clean Water Act:

Attorney General Phil Weiser released the following statement regarding today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Phil Weiser
Phil Weiser

“For more than 50 years, the Clean Water Act has provided a framework for the federal government and the states to cooperate to protect streams and wetlands from pollution. Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sackett v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turns this carefully crafted state/federal partnership on its head. The Court’s new definition of waters of the United States will return our nation to a patchwork of rules and undermine water quality protection efforts in Colorado. And it will do so without the benefit of a transition period to give states and regulated parties time to adjust to a new regime that will have to replace the existing one. 

“Under the Court’s new test for which waters would be protected by the Clean Water Act, many of the streams and wetlands in Colorado will be stripped of federal protections—and removed from federal oversight—because they are temporary in nature, lack year-round flow, and don’t have a continuous surface connection to navigable waters. In practice, this means that Colorado will have to step in to address the impacts of dredge and fill activities that have historically been overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

“The state of Colorado has a strong interest in protecting water quality because our economy and way of life rely on clean water. And, as a headwaters state, Colorado’s rivers supply millions of people in the U.S. and Mexico with water needed for drinking, agriculture, industry, and outdoor recreation. We in Colorado must find a way forward to protect waters within our borders and provide regulatory certainty for all of us in our state who depend on clean water.”

Gov. Jared Polis followed up with this statement via a press release:

DENVER- Today, Governor Jared Polis and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of CDPHE released the following statements in response to the Supreme Court decision on Sackett v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, impacting the Waters of the U.S. 

“In Colorado, we know the importance of protecting our clean water resources for the health and safety of Coloradans, wildlife, and our thriving economy. My administration is deeply disappointed in this Court which has once again sided with special interests and polluters, by severely lessening protections for drinking water, wetlands, and tributaries. We are committed to protecting Colorado’s precious water resources to ensure that Coloradans can continue to count on a safe water supply vital for agriculture, recreation, and drinking water,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

The administration and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment(CDPHE)  anticipated this decision and have already been taking steps to protect waters in Colorado despite this disappointing court decision. 

“In Colorado, we are determined to protect the waters we all cherish and rely upon. We need clarity and stability in the rules so that we can responsibly grow, while also protecting our natural resources. We have been planning for this decision and have already developed a draft policy with partners from throughout the state. This will help ensure we continue to protect Colorado waters while moving toward a long-term, durable solution,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of CDPHE.

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