In the Courtroom

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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 also 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, amicus curiae briefs, and relevant litigation opinions.

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.

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FY16 Litigation Accomplishments

Confirmed the legality of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, with the Supreme Court's denial of the Farm Bureau's appeal, concluding five years of litigation.

Eliminated two million pounds of pollution entering the Potomac River each year through a settlement with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

Filed seven new cases and eight briefs, from challenging unenforceable county polluted runoff permits in Maryland, to intervening in an industry lawsuit targeting mercury pollution from power plants.

Appealed plans to build a subdivision on protected "critical area" located on Deep Cove Creek in Churchton, Maryland.

Helped negotiate an agreement for fish passage at the Conowingo Dam. As a result, Exelon Corporation (the dam's owners) have agreed to do more to help migratory fish make it upstream to their spawning grounds. The agreement has been described as a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to help restore the populations of species such as American shad and herring.

Reduced agricultural pollution in Virginia through a lawsuit against the Commonwealth that drew attention to the need to help farmers implement conservation practices.

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