How SCOTUS halted progress on numerous fronts this session
From stalking victims to Native Americans to same-sex couples, the court made life worse for wide swaths of the population.
With the 2022-2023 Supreme Court session finally in the rearview mirror, it’s a good time to reflect on the sheer scope of the cruelty this court inflicted — at least to anyone who’s not some combination of male, rich, white, Christian, and conservative.
There are the obvious high-profile cases, such as Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which got rid of affirmative action, and 303 Creative v. Elenis, which held that private businesses can refuse to serve same-sex couples, but that’s not all that happened this term. The Supreme Court made things worse for Native Americans, for the environment, for people being stalked, and much more.
Let’s dive in, starting with two cases that jeopardize access to clean water.
The freedom to pollute
In May’s Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency ruling, the court’s conservative majority threw out a significant part of the Clean Water Act, a decision that will undo decades of government action that improved the health of America’s waterways.
Some context: Before the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, things were so grim that one river in Ohio, the Cuyahoga, was polluted to the point where it caught fire at least a dozen times. Other rivers had “dead zones” where fish died off by the millions. Industrial waste, including raw sewage, made its way into drinking water. The Clean Water Act addressed many of these issues, blocking literally tons of toxic pollutants from getting into the water supply and restoring many of the nation’s waterways.
But big polluters and conservative states hated being bound by the CWA, and during this court term, they found the perfect case in Sackett, which removed nearly half the nation’s wetlands from the protection of the CWA. If state laws don’t protect those wetlands within their boundaries, companies can start filling them with sludge without needing a permit. For anyone who lives near these waterways or values clear streams and safe drinking water, this case is a major disaster. But oil companies are thrilled, as are mining companies.
The court’s other water decision this term was equally bad.
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