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 Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Justice Samuel Alito, 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 begin building.
A federal appeals court had said that 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 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, said the administration position would in essence gut a key provision of the endangered species law. The act prohibits federal agency action that will jeopardize a species and calls for consultation between federal agencies.
The cases are National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 06-340, EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife, 06-549.