In the Courtroom

Scenic peninsula on the Bay. Photo by Nikki DavisCBF'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 curiaealso 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 Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

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. For the past five years, 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. The future and success of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint moved from a United States District Court to the Circuit Court of Appeals, and finally to the Supreme Court. On February 29, 2016, the court challenges came to an end with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear the AFBF's appeal.

Read the District Court Opinion 
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.

FY15 Litigation Accomplishments

Advocated in the Richmond Circuit Court for mandatory regulations to exclude livestock from streams. In Maryland, we worked with local organizations to challenge county land use and zoning decisions in court.

Argued successfully in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in support of the pollution limits that are the cornerstone of the Clean Water Blueprint. The court agreed, and in a strong opinion upheld the validity of this plan to restore the Bay.

Filed appeals challenging the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, and Howard Counties and presented arguments for better permits to circuit and appeals courts.

Joined as an intervener to defend the federal mercury and air toxics standards for power plants against a challenge by industry. 

Prompted the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to review a variance granted by the Board of Appeals allowing development within the two hundred foot buffer required by the Maryland Critical Area Act.

Urged the Environmental Protection Agency to study sediment toxicity and potential human health impacts associated with discharges from a hazardous waste site on the Patapsco River.

Monitored federal proceedings concerning the re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam, and coordinated the comment letters concerning state and federal regulations and permits written by CBF state offices.

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