WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the federal government Tuesday, deciding landowners can go straight to court when regulators find that property is covered by the Clean Water Act.

The justices ruled unanimously that property owners can appeal a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers that a body of water is subject to federal jurisdiction and permit requirements under the Clean Water Act.

Property owners and a mining company are fighting a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that 530 acres in Minnesota are subject to federal regulation and can’t be used for a peat-mining operation.

The Obama administration had argued that owners can’t sue until the permit application is rejected or they face federal enforcement proceedings.

The Clean Water Act includes wetlands connected to a river, lake or other major waterway and it prohibits the discharge of any pollutant without a permit into navigable waters in the United States. The Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency have dual enforcement authority for water pollution.

Property owners can ask the Corps whether their land meets regulations before applying for a permit.

Chief Justice John Robert wrote “The Corps contends that the revised JD is not ‘final agency action’ and that, even if it were, there are adequate alternatives for challenging it in court. We disagree at both turns.”

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