In a case that could have major ramifications for environmental protections in the U.S., the Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday pitting the federal government against an Illinois solid waste agency that wants to locate a trash dump in a remote wetland area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the landfill because it would destroy habitat where migratory birds breed, claiming authority to do so under the Clean Water Act because the dump would affect interstate commerce, notably the bird-watchers and hunters who travel across state lines in search of species found in the wetland area. The waste agency, supported by dozens of business groups that filed friend-of-the-court briefs, argues that the wetland in question is a special case because its pools were actually formed by past mining activity and are therefore unconnected to the national network of lakes and rivers that the U.S. EPA and the Corps are authorized to protect.

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