A nearly 20-year battle over 50 acres of privately owned Michigan wetlands to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this month is shaping up as a showdown between property rights proponents and environmentalists. In one corner: Heavyweights like the National Association of Home Builders and the American Petroleum Institute. In the other corner: Environmental activists and governmental agencies who say the case is critical to preserving American wetlands. Thirty-nine "friend of the court" briefs have been filed on behalf of both sides; at last count, attorneys general for 33 states and the District of Columbia supported the government, with two states favoring Rapanos. It all began in 1988 when John Rapanos decided to fill in 50 acres he owned in Michigan to build a shopping center. According to court documents, the state told Rapanos he would need permits to develop the sites – a requirement he has never fulfilled. In April 1989, Rapanos began preparing the site for construction, ...
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