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In clash of two laws, species act is loser

A 5-4 high court ruling favors builders and the Bush administration.

June 26, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court sided with developers and the Bush administration Monday in a dispute with environmentalists over protecting endangered species.

The court ruled 5-4 for home builders and the Environmental Protection Agency in a case that involved the intersection of two environmental laws, the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the conservative majority, said the endangered species law takes a back seat to the clean water law when it comes to the EPA handing authority to a state to issue water pollution permits. Developers often need such permits before they can build.

A federal appeals court had said the EPA did not do enough to ensure that endangered species would not be harmed if the state took over the permitting.

Environmental groups, backed by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said that the administration position would in essence gut a key provision of the endangered species law.

The act prohibits federal action that would jeopardize a species and calls for consultation among federal agencies.

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