Rapanos v. United States: Evaluating the Efficacy of Textualism in Interpreting Environmental Laws

Covington, Courtney
August 2007
Ecology Law Quarterly;2007, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p801
Academic Journal
Rapanos v. United States is the third in a series of important cases addressing the extent to which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may regulate wetland areas under the Clean Water Act. Although no opinion commanded a majority of the Court, the decision revealed deep divisions among the justices regarding approaches to statutory interpretation. Justice Scalia `s text-based approach contrasts sharply with the more traditional techniques applied by Justices Kennedy and Stevens. Justice Scalia `s application of textualism, however, serves to constrain the Clean Water Act in a manner that undermines its purpose. The Rapanos decision, therefore, exemplifies the way in which comprehensive environmental laws are particularly susceptible to hamstringing if subjected to a purely textualist interpretive approach.


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