In the Courtroom
CBF's Litigation team uses carefully chosen legal action to advance the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, lakes, and streams. © Nikki Davis
To Protect, Enforce, and Bring About Change
CBF's Litigation Department uses carefully chosen legal action as another tool for advancing the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, lakes, and streams. Litigation is used to not only protect and enforce the current environmental laws but to bring about environmentally friendly change within our legal system. CBF attorneys argue cases in the federal and state courts within the watershed and file amicus curiae—also called Friend of the Court—briefs in related environmental lawsuits.
Carefully executed litigation serves three primary purposes:
- It spurs enforcement efforts against those who violate laws that were created to protect the watershed.
- It helps define and drive the agenda for public debate over restoration and protection of the Bay.
- It delivers concrete and enforceable progress in resource restoration.
Learn more about CBF's active cases, concluded cases, and amicus curiae briefs.
EPA's Pollution Limits for the Chesapeake Bay Are Under Legal Assault.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the National Association of Home Builders, and other lobbying groups are trying to eliminate the pollution limits. The fate of these limits and the state clean-up plans—in other words, the future and success of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—has depended on what happens in federal court. EPA's authority to issue a Clean Water Act provision known legally as a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL has been challenged by these industry groups in Federal Court.
CBF and others gave their oral arguments in October 2012 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and in September 2013 the Honorable Judge Rambo upheld EPA's authority to issue the Bay TMDL. Read the District Court Opinion The American Farm Bureau Federation appealed the District Court's Ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and in July 2015, in a unanimous decision, the Third Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling. Read the Third Circuit Opinion
CBF is also working in court to support EPA regulations to reduce toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, which contaminates fish and thus puts human health at risk. The federal hazardous air pollutant standards would make a cleaner and healthier Bay, but they have been challenged in Federal Court by power companies and others. The challengers took their appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court and in June 2015, the Court ruled against the EPA and remanded the case back to the United States Court of Appeals for review of the economic impact of the regulations. CBF continues to stay involved in the litigation to limit mercury pollution.
Junior Girl Scout troup 10324 of Sparrows Point, Maryland, displays the plaque CBF presented to the troop for its commitment to the Blueprint. Photo by Kimbra Cutlip/CBF Staff
Girl Scouts Defending the Future
Ten-year-old Melek has grown up fishing, swim- ming, and watching osprey raise their young on Jones Creek in Baltimore County. The Chesapeake has always been her playground. So when her grandmother told her that officials from 21 states as far away as Alaska would be fighting against clean water in her own back yard, she was confused and upset.