Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency and the Future of Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

Date of Event



The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into "waters of the United States" without a permit, but what are the boundaries of "waters of the United States"? This question has vexed federal regulatory enforcement since the earliest days of the CWA and has reached the Supreme Court for the fourth time. This fall, in Sackett v. EPA, the Supreme Court will consider whether the EPA's definition of waters of the United States is too broad, and whether courts have been too deferential to the agency's assertion of regulatory authority. This webinar will examine the legal issues at play in Sackett, and the potential consequences for environmental law, water pollution control and environmental conservation. The Webinar will feature Professor Royal Gardner of Stetson University Law School and Jonathan Wood of the Property and Environment Research Center.

Speaker Bios

Professor Royal C. Gardner is a Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy at the Stetson University College of Law. Professor Gardner is an internationally recognized expert in wetland law and policy. Recent projects include testifying before a World Bank arbitration panel, advising the Government of Oman regarding wetland policy, coauthoring amicus briefs on behalf of environmental scientists, and creating interdisciplinary courses that facilitate discourse among experienced scientists, policymakers, and students.

His research and scholarship focus on U.S. and international wetland legal and policy issues, with an emphasis on biodiversity offsets. He has lectured in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

The Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy received the American Bar Association's 2016 Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy Award, and Professor Gardner is the recipient of the 2018 President's Service Award from the Society of Wetland Scientists and the 2006 National Wetlands Award for Education and Outreach.

Professor Gardner served two terms (2013-2018) as chair of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental wetland treaty with 170 countries. He also served on the Ramsar STRP as North American representative (2006–2008) and invited expert (2009–2012). He was chair of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee (2005–2008) and participated in the Ramsar Convention Conferences of the Parties held in Spain (2002), Uganda (2005), Korea (2008), Romania (2012), and Uruguay (2015). In 1999–2001, Professor Gardner was appointed to the National Research Council's Committee on Mitigating Wetland Losses.

An executive editor of the Boston College Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif, he graduated magna cum laude from Boston College Law School. He then clerked for Chief Judge Francis J. Boyle of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. From 1989 to 1993, he served in the Army General Counsel's office as the Department of the Army's principal wetland attorney, advising the assistant secretary of the Army (civil works) on legal and policy issues related to the Corps of Engineers' administration of the Clean Water Act section 404 program. From 1993 until he joined the Stetson faculty in 1994, Professor Gardner worked for the Department of Defense, where he participated in negotiating international agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to facilitate the dismantlement of the former Soviet Union's nuclear weapons.

Jonathan Wood is vice president of law and policy at PERC—the Property and Environment Research Center. An attorney, he has litigated environmental and property-rights cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts across the country. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Review, Reason, and other outlets. And his research has been published in journals such as Environmental Law Reporter, Yale Journal on Regulation Notice & Comment, Pace Environmental Law Review and California Western Law Review.

Prior to coming to PERC, Wood was a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, where he litigated cases concerning the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and other federal environmental laws. He was co-counsel for forest landowners in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that private land could not be arbitrarily regulated as critical habitat under the ESA. He also led a successful effort to reform regulation of threatened species to better align the incentives of private landowners with the interests of rare species.

Wood has testified before several congressional committees on wildlife conservation and endangered species topics. He has also appeared on national television and radio, including NPR’s All Things Considered, C-Span’s Washington Journal, Stossel, Fox News and Hill.TV.

He has a law degree from the New York University School of Law, a master's degree in economic policy from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Texas. Wood is on the executive committee for the Federalist Society’s Environmental Law and Property Rights Practice Group and a steering committee member for the Environmental Law Institute’s Emerging Leaders Initiative.

Jonathan H. Adler is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and the founding Director of the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he teaches courses in environmental, administrative and constitutional law.

Professor Adler will moderate the panel.

Lecture Series

Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law

Subject Headings

Clean Water Act; Clean Water Act jurisprudence


CWRU Law Virtual Event

Document Type