Press Release | March 15, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Brief Filed to Defend Clean Water Rule

Washington, D.C.– On behalf of the Coastal Conservation League and One Hundred Miles, the Southern Environmental Law Center today filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court to follow through on its plans to hear the upcoming case on the Clean Water Rule, a landmark rule safeguarding streams, wetlands, and other waters that feed drinking water sources for nearly 20 million people in the Southeast. If granted, the judicial review requested in the brief filed jointly with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) would stop the Trump Administration's executive order from derailing a case that affects the health and safety of millions of Southerners.

“President Trump’s executive order on the Clean Water Rule threatens the health and safety of Southeastern communities,” said Catherine Wannamaker, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We won’t stand by while the administration illegally attempts to undermine the judicial process and this important rule. The administration’s executive order is a kickback to polluters at the expense of people and it turns back the clock 45 years to a time when companies could subject our wetlands, streams, and rivers to unchecked pollution.“

The 2015 Clean Water Rule, the result of a multi-year public process of stakeholder input, clarifies the bodies of water protected by the Clean Water Act, clearly restoring longstanding and crucial safeguards to an estimated 60 percent of our nation’s stream miles and to millions of important wetlands. Without the protections outlined in the Clean Water Rule, it would be easier for factories, sewage treatment facilities, and other polluters to directly dump into these waterways, threatening drinking water supplies and harming the most vulnerable in our communities. 

“We will continue to fight for independent judicial review of the Clean Water Rule, a final regulation based on almost one million public comments, a robust scientific analysis, Justice Kennedy's pivotal significant nexus jurisdictional test, and the Clean Water Act itself,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, NWF’s water resources counsel. 

SELC, along with NRDC and NWF, filed a brief today asking the Supreme Court to move forward with the case.  The filing argues that the executive order, the grounds for the Trump Administration's motion, cannot dictate the outcome of the rulemaking process before it even begins.  The executive order improperly directs the agency to consider using an overly narrow definition of waters subject to the Clean Water Act that would dramatically limit its important protections.

Read the full text of the motion here.

Since its release, the Clean Water Rule has been targeted in court by multiple states and industries that are eager to limit the scope and power of Clean Water Act protections, regardless of what that means for families and communities. Many of these suits were consolidated in the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and that court was in the middle of the briefing on the merits of the Clean Water Rule when the administration changed hands and reversed course. With disputes over whether the District Court or Circuit Court should hear these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up the question of which court should hear this challenge. But the Trump Administration filed a motion to indefinitely put on hold the Supreme Court’s review – as well as the 6th Circuit’s — while it attempts to scrap the Clean Water Rule and start the rule-making process again from scratch. 
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About the Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), 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 the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org