States tell U.S. Supreme Court: 'We need Feds for clean water'

Community Rights Counsel urged the Supreme Court not to dramatically curtail reach of the Clean Water Act in a misguided attempt to protect states. On behalf of its clients, the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, CRC explains why states support the current federal program for protecting clean water. 35 state attorneys general joined 4 ex-EPA administrators and a coalition of environmental groups to file briefs in the two cases coming before court...

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 17, 2006 -- On Friday, Community Rights Counsel (CRC) urged the Supreme Court not to dramatically curtail the reach of the Clean Water Act in a misguided attempt to protect States. On behalf of its clients, the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA), CRC explained to the Court why the States strongly support the current federal program for protecting clean water.

The future of the Clean Water Act is at stake in two cases, Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States, which the Court will hear on Feb. 21. A ruling that adopts the position advocated by counsel for Rapanos, and most of the amici who favor the developers in this case, would strip federal protection from up to 99 percent of the rivers, streams, and wetlands currently protected by the Act. The importance of this case convinced ASIWPCA, a non-partisan organization that represents the State and Interstate officials who implement surface water protection programs, to file its first-ever amicus brief. The brief is available at www.communityrights.org/rapanosvus.pdf.

In brief after brief, developers, polluters, and their anti-government allies have told the Court that radically curtailing the reach of the Clean Water Act is necessary to protect the interests of States. But States themselves disagree.

ASIWPCA's brief explains that States have an enormous stake in the continuity of the existing State-federal partnership, built up over the last three decades, that safeguards our wetlands, streams, and rivers. Far from protecting State prerogatives, gutting the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act would leave States vulnerable to flooding and pollution that originates in upstream States, and make it significantly more difficult for States to protect their own waters.

The Rapanos and Carabell cases will be an important a bellwether for the direction of the Roberts Court. A ruling for the developers would indicate that the Court is likely to continue curtailing federal powers, even over the objection of the States themselves. A ruling for the States and the federal government may indicate that judicial modesty will be the hallmark of Chief Justice Roberts' tenure on the bench (and not just the catchphrase of his confirmation testimony). The future of federalism and environmental law both hang in the balance.

Community Rights Counsel (www.communityrights.org) is a public interest law firm that promotes constitutional principles to defend laws that make our communities environmental sound and socially just.

The Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (www.asiwpca.org), an independent, nonpartisan organization of state water program managers, is based in Washington, DC.

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Also see:
-- "Penn. governor directs filing of briefs to protect water supply, control pollution"
-- "Mich. A.G. joins 35 state attorneys general to protect federal CWA jurisdiction"
-- "Coalition counters industry demand for blank check to pollute waters"
-- "Sierra Club sides with federal government to protect valuable waterways, wetlands "
-- "Green groups seek to testify in Supreme Court wetlands cases"
-- "Navigating wetlands to the Supreme Court"
-- "Supreme Court to hear landmark Clean Water Act case"

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