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Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Thursday that sewage plants and other industries must abide by environmental requirements under the Clean Water Act when sending dirty water on an indirect route to rivers and oceans, AP reports.

Why it matters: The ruling rejects the Environmental Protection Agency's opinion that industries do not have to comply with the regulations if they discharge polluted water into the ground.

  • The EPA under President Trump reversed its position on ground discharge, which it had held for 30-years.

What they're saying: “We hold that the statute requires a permit when there is a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court.

The other side: Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

  • “Based on the statutory text and structure, I would hold that a permit is required only when a point source discharges pollutants directly into navigable waters,” Thomas wrote.

The big picture: The decision came from Hawaii case about whether a sewage treatment plant needs a federal permit to send wastewater underground.

  • Environmental studies have found that the wastewater eventually reaches the ocean and has damaged a coral reef near a Maui beach, according to AP.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Ben Geman: It’s the latest twist in roughly two decades or more of legal and regulatory battles over the reach of the Clean Water Act — a bedrock environmental law subsequent administrations have interpreted very differently in terms of the breadth of protection it provides.

Go deeper: Trump administration to weaken mercury emission regulations

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.