The Supreme Court just gutted clean water protections. Clarence Thomas suggested it didn't go far enough.

  • The Supreme Court rolled back the Environmental Protection Agency's power in a Thursday ruling.

  • In a concurring opinion, Clarence Thomas suggested he'd further gut its authority.

  • The conservative-led high court has been putting more restrictions on federal regulators' power.

The Supreme Court on Thursday slashed the Environmental Protection Agency's power to protect bodies of water from pollution — but Justice Clarence Thomas thinks the Court could have gone further in cutting the agency's authority.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, scaled back what types of bodies of water the EPA can claim to regulate under the Clean Water Act.

The case involved an Idaho couple who sued the agency after they were threatened with thousands in fines for filling in water near a lake.

But Clarence Thomas said the EPA was overstepping its authority.

In a concurrent opinion pushing for even less regulatory power, Thomas — and Justice Neil Gorsuch — said their Supreme Court colleagues narrowly ruled about what the term "waters" means, but not the scope of the EPA's powers.

"I write separately to pick up where the Court leaves off," he said.

"The Court's opinion today curbs a serious expansion of federal authority that has simultaneously degraded States' authority and diverted the Federal Government from its important role as guarantor of the Nation's great commercial water highways into something resembling 'a local zoning board.' But, wetlands are just the beginning of the problems raised by the agencies' assertion of jurisdiction in this case," Thomas wrote.

Thomas suggested the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which has been used to justify Congress and the federal government's power to regulate, is being used too broadly.

The conservative-dominated Supreme Court has been limiting federal powers: Last June, it rolled back the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions.

Thomas may soon get a chance to scale back federal power not just for the EPA, but for all regulatory agencies. The Court is set to reconsider a ruling that could overturn the Chevron Doctrine, a previous Supreme Court ruling that defers power to federal agencies when the exact meaning of the law is unclear.

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