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.

FY14 Litigation Accomplishments

Advocated in the courts for Bay-saving issues as diverse as land use, development in the Critical Area, and pollution from industrial dischargers and municipal stormwater.

Urged environmental impact studies on the exploration, extraction, and transport of natural gas from Marcellus shale in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Filed a petition for judicial review of the Virginia state agricultural feeding operations permit that omitted language mandating the exclusion of livestock from streams.

Argued along with Friends of Frederick (Maryland) in the Frederick County Land Use Case against rezoning plans that would allow for development that could be harmful to the Bay.

Prompted Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to review a permit covering management of polluted runoff.

Joined the Conowingo Hydroelectric Project relicensing process as a voice for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay.

Filed "friend of the court" briefs to support allies in general Maryland appellate court cases on moves like land use, zoning, and polluted runoff control.

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