The Supreme Court sided with the environment over electric power yesterday, ruling that state regulators may require a steady flow of water over power dams to benefit both fish and boaters. The unanimous decision holds that states may protect the health of their rivers, even though hydroelectric power dams are regulated exclusively by the federal government. The dispute arose over five small dams on the Presumpscot River in Maine, but the court's decision affects an estimated 1,500 power dams in 45 states.
There are two critical Clean Water Act cases still before the Supreme Court. Both from Michigan, they will determine whether federal regulators can continue to protect inland wetlands and small streams from development or pollution. Private-property activists say the Clean Water Act protects only rivers and lakes that are "navigable," where boats can float, not wetlands that are far inland. Decisions in those cases are due by late June.
It's suprising to me that Bush administration lawyers joined all three clean water cases on the side of the environmentalists.