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Energy & Environment — Supreme Court hears arguments on water rules

wetlands in illinois

The Supreme Court reviews a case on water regulations, the White House is poised for another use of the Defense Production Act and there’s a new policy for law enforcement at the Interior Department. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Subscribe here. 

High court weighs redefining clean water regulations

The Supreme Court on Monday weighed whether to limit the scope of the country’s clean water regulations in a case that could have a far-reaching impact on the nation’s water quality.  

The fairly technical argument, which dealt with the Clean Water Act’s regulatory reach over wetlands, did not clearly telegraph how the court would rule. Its most conservative and liberal members appeared to stake out opposite ends of the debate, however, while several other justices seemed more difficult to read. 

How it started: The case stems from a 2007 property dispute, in which Idaho landowners Michael and Chantell Sackett were told they needed a federal permit to build a home on land they owned because it supposedly contained regulated wetlands. 

Now, 15 years later, the couple is arguing that the way that the federal government views regulated wetlands is too broad.  

What’s at stake: The case will determine when wetlands are — and are not – subject to federal regulations under the Clean Water Act. 

  • Environmentalists argue that it is important to protect these ecosystems when they have significant connections to other regulated bodies of water in order to prevent those bodies of water from becoming polluted.
  • A Trump administration rule which narrowed wetland regulations reportedly would have left 51 percent of the country’s wetlands unprotected.  

While the court did not project a clear outcome during its questioning, the 6-3 conservative majority court has a history of looking skeptically at the federal government’s claim of regulatory authority over the environment when its powers are not clearly defined by law.  

In the first argument of the court’s new term, the three most conservative justices seemed inclined to pare back the government’s environmental authority, while the court’s three more liberal members appeared to favor an expansive view. Some of the other justices sent mixed signals about how they might rule in the case. 

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked particularly tough questions of the Sacketts’s lawyer, Damien Schiff.  

In arguments that at times focused on when a wetland can be considered “adjacent” to regulated waters, he took issue with the lawyer’s insistence that this referred to waters that are “touching” rather than “neighboring.” 

Kavanaugh described “neighboring” as the “ordinary dictionary definition of adjacent.” 

Read more from Rachel and The Hill’s John Kruzel. 


The Biden administration is taking another step toward advancing the use of the Defense Production Act to bolster clean energy.  

  • In June, President Biden authorized the Department of Energy (DOE) to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of solar, electric grid, heat pump and other technologies.
  • Now, Energy Department officials are taking an initial step to set that in motion.  

What does it entail? That step involved releasing a formal Request for Information — asking the public how the law can best be used, according to a press release that was first shared with The Hill.  

The Defense Production Act gives the president the authority to mobilize a certain industry in order to advance national security. Under the law, the president can prioritize contracts for certain types of products and use financial incentives to expand manufacturing capacity. 

“The Defense Production Act provides us with a vital tool to make targeted investments in key technology areas that are essential to ensuring power grid reliability and achieving our clean energy future,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

“DOE is eager to continue hearing ideas from industry, labor, environmental, energy justice, and state, local and Tribal stakeholders about how we can best use this powerful new authority to support the clean energy workforce and technologies needed to combat climate change,” she added. 

Read more about the step here. 

Interior to require body cameras for law enforcement

U.S. Park Police and other Interior Department law enforcement will be required to wear body cameras under a new policy, the department announced Monday.  

  • The policy is part of a chapter added to the departmental manual, which will also establish standards for downloading and storing the footage as well as the public release of any incidents featuring death or serious injury. 
  • The manual will also be updated with use-of-force policies for the department, establishing new standards for use of force and requiring the collection and publication of data on such incidents.
  • It also bans the use of neck restraints by personnel except in situations where deadly force is authorized, broadening the existing ban on chokeholds in the department.

Several high-profile cases have involved police killing unarmed men with neck holds, including the 2014 death of Eric Garner and the 2020 murder of George Floyd. 

The manual also tightens the use of no-knock entries, allowing them only in cases where agents announcing themselves would create a risk of physical violence.

  • Agents will also be required to get authorization for so-called no-knock warrants from their supervisors and an assistant U.S. attorney, according to the department.
  • No-knock warrants have also been a national controversy since Louisville, Ky., police killed Breonna Taylor in March 2020.  

“Every single day across the country, the Interior Department’s law enforcement officers risk their lives to safeguard our communities, public lands and waters, and critical resources. In reforming policing practices, the Department is helping strengthen the unique connection that law enforcement officers have with the communities that they serve and move the nation forward towards community-focused law enforcement,” Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said in a statement. 

Read more about the policy here. 


The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its oil-exporting allies will weigh significant cuts to oil production in order to deal with falling fuel prices, according to a new report.  

  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the OPEC+ coalition may cut over 1 million barrels per day, in what would be the largest production reduction since the COVID-19 pandemic. The move would boost the price of oil and further strain Western consumers amid soaring inflation.
  • Among the OPEC+ allies is Russia, which has been targeted by an onslaught of international sanctions since its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, contributing to skyrocketing energy prices in the U.S. and elsewhere.   

The mission of OPEC — which includes Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — is coordinating and stabilizing the global oil market.   

But the possibility of an OPEC+ cut to oil production could further destabilize the global economy more broadly. 

Read more from The Hill’s Julia Mueller. 


  • This 100% solar community endured Hurricane Ian with no loss of power and minimal damage (CNN
  • David Hayes, who has worked on U.S. climate resilience, on how we’re doing amid Ian (The Washington Post
  • LA restricts water flow to wasteful celebrity mansions: ‘No matter how rich, we’ll treat you the same’ (The Guardian
  • Ian, Fiona shattered hopes for a quiet hurricane season. What’s next? (USA Today
  • Jackson, Miss., residents struggle with basic needs as the water crisis disrupts life (NPR


🐄  Lighter click: New parents

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Tags Biden Brett Kavanaugh Clean Water Act Interior Department Jennifer Granholm no-knock warrant OPEC+ Supreme Court water resources wetlands
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