Washington Secrets

Scalia slams reach of Endangered Species Act

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

As an avid duck hunter and sitting Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia knows something about the Nixon-era Endangered Species Act. And what he knows most--the court's OK of the Environmental Protection Agency's expansion to cover animal habitat--he considers illegal.

"It's just a terrible interpretation," Scalia said at a Tuesday event to promote the new book he co-authored, "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts."

At issue: The EPA's decision to expand the act beyond the "taking" or injuring or killing of endangered animals to protecting their habitat. The expansion led the court before Scalia joined in 1986 to OK protecting the habitat of animals like the spotted owl and Kangaroo rat.

He mocked the EPA's decision. "Well, you certainly 'injure' an animal when you destroy its habitat and therefore the Endangered Species Act prevents destroying the creature's habitat," he said. "Congress never voted for stupid things like that," he added.

"I would have said that regulation is so far beyond a reasonable interpretation of the statute that it cannot stand," said Scalia. "Injuring in that context does certainly not mean destroying the habitat. Nobody would think that that's 'taking' an animal."

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