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.
PRECENDENT SETTING CASES
CBF, Partners, Sue EPA to Stop Out-of-StateSmog from Harming Marylanders and the Chesapeake Bay
In November of 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require 19 out-of-state power plants to turn on their pollution controls in a manner consistent with Maryland law. MDE had estimated that in 2015, about 39,000 tons of NOx reductions could have been achieved in the hot months if the plants had simply run their control technologies effectively. The Clean Air Act sets a deadline for EPA to grant or deny this kind of petition and EPA was obligated by law to hold a public hearing and to timely respond to Maryland's petition. When the agency failed in both respects and showed no signs of acting, MDE filed suit against EPA on September 27, 2017. On October 4, 2017, CBF and six regional and national groups joined MDE and filed suit against EPA. Ultimately, EPA denied the petitions. CBF and our partners appealed the decision. Briefs have been filed but oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. Find out more about the issue.
In a similar case, CBF has appealed a separate EPA decision regarding the Transport Rule, or Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update. View both cases.
EPA's Pollution Limits for the Chesapeake Bay Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court
In 2010, after 25 years of failed agreements between state in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to work together to clean up the Bay, EPA used its authority under the Clean Water Act to establish pollution limits for the Bay, officially known as a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL. This TMDL and the state plans to meet it are jointly referred to as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Less than two weeks later, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), The Fertilizer Institute, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the National Association of Home Builders, and other lobbying groups challenged EPA's authority and filed a complaint in federal court to throw out the limits. CBF and our allies filed a motion to intervene in the case in support of EPA. Over the next five years, the future of the 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 to deny AFBF's appeal.
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.