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Hello, and welcome back to Heatmap Daily.

The Supreme Court is a funny institution. (To put it mildly.) On the one hand, its proceedings are lofty, technical, and out of view of the public. On the other, it’s just nine people sitting in a room — and until those nine people change, their views, assumptions, and instincts will play an outsize role in our lives.

The legal philosopher (and federal judge) Jerome Frank once allegedly said, “The law is what the judge eats for breakfast.” If that’s true, then we should be especially watchful for judicial indigestion … and dissension in the ranks. Today, I look at a notable disagreement among the justices about one of the Court’s biggest environmental rollbacks in years. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the long weekend. --Robinson

Justice Kavanaugh, Environmental Swing Vote

Why Thursday’s opinion on the Clean Water Act was not entirely out of character for the justice

Supreme Court justices.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court sharply limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Writing for a five-justice majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that only wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to a protected body of water were covered by the law. The decision will remove federal protections from millions of acres of swamp, bog, and marsh, allowing companies to dump pollutants into them without penalty or oversight.

The ruling is arguably a more severe rollback to the EPA’s power than last year’s West Virginia v. EPA, which partially curtailed the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act. In that case, the Court prevented the EPA from regulating carbon pollution in one hypothetical way, but did not prevent it from attempting to regulate emissions at all. Now the Court is lifting wetland protections that have been in place for decades.

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