On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in National Association of Manufacturers vs. Department of Defense, a case that sought to determine whether challenges to the Clean Water Rule should be heard in district or appeals courts. In its unanimous decision, the court ruled that district courts (smaller, more local courts) should handle any challenges to the Clean Water Rule. What does that decision mean for America’s waterways?
Here’s the bad news. Now that challenges to the Clean Water Rule will be heard in smaller courts, those cases will be more distributed across the country, and will require more resources to litigate. It will be more costly to defend the Clean Water Rule as challenges come. Additionally, polluters will now have more leeway to choose the court in which their case gets heard, meaning that many challenges will take place in courts that are more polluter-friendly.
But there’s a potential silver lining to the decision. When the Supreme Court declared that appeals courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear Clean Water Rule challenges, they voided the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2015 injunction against the Rule, which halted its implementation. That could mean the Clean Water Rule will become the law of the land until the administration produces a replacement rule.
With the opportunity to restore protections for the drinking water of 117 million Americans, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt should move forward as soon as possible to implement the Clean Water Rule. Instead, he’s moving the agency in the opposite direction, working to postpone the effective start date of the Clean Water Rule in order to prevent the Rule from taking effect. That is an unacceptable decision from the agency tasked with protecting our drinking water.
If the Trump administration won’t fight for our lakes, rivers and streams, we will. And there is reason to hope: The Supreme Court decision clears the way for courts to continue examining the Clean Water Rule’s constitutionality, and opens a pathway for environmental groups to push back against the administration’s rollback. With hope for a future with clean water for all, we will continue fighting the rollbacks at every turn, alongside the millions of Americans standing with us.