News | May 25, 2023

U.S. Supreme Court abandons clean water and community protections

A special message from DJ Gerken, SELC’s Executive Director

The U.S. Supreme Court has just handed down another decision that puts our clean water and communities at risk. Ignoring scientific consensus and decades of established law defining the scope of the Clean Water Act, today’s decision drastically limits the law’s protections for wetlands.

A man in a suit leans against a white marble building.
Executive Director DJ Gerken

In the South, we know the value of wetlands. From our salt marshes to Carolina Bays to mountain bogs, wetlands provide essential habitat for wildlife, filter pollution, and absorb floodwaters that threaten our communities with increasing frequency. Wetlands are essential to healthy streams, rivers, and fisheries. 

Our region is home to iconic wetlands that SELC works to protect, including the Okefenokee Swamp and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. For more than 50 years, federal law has been the backbone of wetland protections in our states. Today’s ruling discards the protections of the Clean Water Act at a time when they are desperately needed.

This decision is a gift to big polluters and industry interests to strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect our health and our waters. The decision will allow more pollution to flow into our streams and rivers and for developers to destroy wetlands’ ability to absorb floodwaters. 

Although the Supreme Court’s decision is significant and disappointing, it will not stop SELC from making progress toward protecting clean water and applying our place-based knowledge and expertise with national implications. 

At SELC, we will not stop our efforts to protect wetlands in the South and the communities that depend on them. Too much is at stake. We will continue to work at the local, state, and federal level to build protections for wetlands. As the South’s largest and most effective environmental defender, we will stand firm in the face of this reckless decision and defend our communities from rampant wetland destruction. 

We will have to fight in our courts, state legislatures, in Congress, and in local governments to protect our waterways. We will do that. And we are in the very best position to do it. This fight is far from over.

Stand with SELC in protecting clean water by supporting our work.