Legal Briefs

Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A garbage disposal agency wanted to build a solid waste disposal site in an abandoned sand and gravel pit that contained ponds used by migratory birds. To complete the project, these habitats would have had to be drained and the water discharged. The agency was thus required to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates the discharge of materials into “navigable waters” — including interstate waters whose damage could affect interstate commerce. The Corps denied the permit. Cato’s brief, joined by the Institute for Justice, argues that the Corps’ assertion of jurisdiction here exceeds the limits on the federal interstate commerce power. Our Constitution creates a federal government of specific, enumerated powers, and this power does not reach activities that are not commerce or activities where the commerce is not interstate, such as is the case here.

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