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 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   Photo by Kimbra Cutlip/CBF StaffJunior 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.

You may also be interested in:
  • Sparrows Point: An Economic and Environmental Liability Neighbors of Sparrows Point in Baltimore, Maryland, including the communities of Turner’s Station, North Point, and Dundalk, have long expressed concerns about the impacts of current and historic releases of toxic chemicals into the air, surface water, and ground water.
  • Bear Creek: Where Residents Fish. And Worry. The scariest thing in the area these days certainly isn't black bears. It might be the creek itself.
  • Federal Court Ruling Affirms Chesapeake Bay Blueprint On September 13, 2013, Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled that the EPA, working with the states, has the authority to set science-based pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Lawsuit Filed Over Sparrows Point Pollution CBF and the Baltimore Harbor WATERKEEPER filed a lawsuit Friday, July 9, 2010 against the current and former owners of the Sparrows Point steel plant, seeking a full investigation and cleanup of illegally discharged hazardous waste.
  • PA Court Decision Provides Environmental Protection CBF issued the following statement in response to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decision affirming the ability of local authorities to zone drilling activities and overturning a permit waiver provision.

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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