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Ruling to limit federal authority over water pollution gets mixed reactions in Montana

This week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the federal government’s authority to police water pollution was greeted in Montana with a combination of relief and frustration.

The justices ruled Thursday in favor of an Idaho couple who wanted to build a house near what federal regulators dubbed a wetland, meaning they needed a permit.

A court majority said the Clean Water Act only applies when wetlands on private land are connected to a larger waterbody.

Ranching, agriculture and small government advocates applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling while environmentalists say it undermines safeguards designed to protect the nation’s wetlands.

The nonprofit sportsman’s organization Backcountry Hunters and Anglers described it as a “gut punch to fish and wildlife and the American people who just lost clean water protections for most wetlands across the country” in a press release Friday.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association described it as a “significant victory” for landowners’ rights.

It was also hailed by Gov. Greg Gianforte, Rep. Matt Rosendale and Sen. Steve Daines – all Republicans.

A spokesperson for Democratic U.S Sen. Jon Tester said Tester knows how critical clean water is to the economy and Montana communities, but adds that the Biden Administration’s Waters of the United States rule isn’t right for Montana.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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