SELC Statement on New EPA Clean Water Act Guidance following U.S. Supreme Court Decision

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center issued the following statement by Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, regarding EPA’s issuance today of Clean Water Act guidance for polluters in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in April in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020).  In that decision, a six-Justice majority rejected the EPA’s legal position and held that the Clean Water Act protects the nation’s waters from pollution that travels from a point source through groundwater, when the discharge through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge.

The Trump EPA chose to issue this guidance the month before it leaves office.

“This guidance continues the mistake the Trump EPA made when it opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in Maui:  this EPA ignores the sole statutory objective of the Clean Water Act, which is the restoration and preservation of the integrity of the nation’s waters.  EPA should be taking this opportunity to encourage polluters to eliminate the sources of pollution that flow through groundwater to rivers, streams, oceans, and lakes.  This guidance doesn’t say a word about eliminating coal ash or toxic pollution that flows into our waterways every day. Instead, this EPA goes out of its way to minimize the importance of protecting our clean water from pollution that flows through groundwater.”


For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.


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