News | April 19, 2023

Latest in fight for national clean water protections

The most effective way to protect clean water is to keep waterways from being destroyed and stop harmful pollution at its source. That’s why we are working with our partners and communities across the South to defend federal clean water protections to ensure clearer, science-based safeguards for critical waterways. 

A recent decision by a federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky brought welcome news in SELC’s efforts by denying a motion filed by industry groups and the Kentucky Attorney General that would have blocked a rule that restores longstanding federal protections under the Clean Water Act from going into effect in Kentucky or anywhere else in the country. The move would have put streams, wetlands, and other waters across the U.S. at risk to destruction and pollution. 

SELC filed a friend of the court brief in the Kentucky case on behalf of Kentucky Resources Council, National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, and several other conservation and outdoor recreation groups. 

A father and son fishing at Lakepoint State Park, Eufaula, Alabama

Unfortunately, decisions by North Dakota and Texas federal courts in other cases blocked the rule from going into effect in 26 states, including in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In these states, Clean Water Act protections revert to similar but less clear, less consistent, and less reliable standards. 

Although our efforts in the Kentucky federal court yielded good news, clean water is still at risk for many communities due to ongoing litigation, including in the Sackett v. EPA case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. As long as clean water is at risk, SELC will continue to fight to protect the streams, wetlands, and other waterways that families and communities rely on.   

Here are thoughts from our clients in the Kentucky case sharing what the strong clean water protections it preserves mean to them and many communities. 

From the trout streams of the Appalachians to the vast wetlands of the Prairie Potholes, some of our nation’s most precious resources are waters that have long provided opportunities for hunting, fishing, and exploring. These resources are too valuable to lose to pollution and destruction should federal protections wane…

Jim Murphy, Director of Legal Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation 

Clean water is a way of life in South Carolina: from our mountain streams, to our rivers and lakes, down to our marshes and coast. We are deeply invested in maintaining our state’s water quality for wildlife and for our members who find joy in the outdoors…We are defending strong federal clean water protections because South Carolina’s priceless waterways cannot survive without them.

Sara Green, Executive Director, South Carolina Wildlife Federation 

Hunters and anglers know that wildlife needs clean water and without it, there won’t be ducks to hunt or fish to catch. Folks who love our streams, rivers, and wetlands deserve clear national clean water protections.

Tim Gestwicki, CEO, North Carolina Wildlife Federation  

The League is proud to defend this rule reestablishing longstanding Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands. It follows the law, best available science, and common sense and is essential for protecting hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director, Izaak Walton League of America