Victory for Clean Water

In a huge win for rivers, a federal judge in South Carolina struck down the administration’s effort to strip away crucial clean water protections.

Wood River Wetland, OR | Greg Shine, BLM

On August 16, American Rivers won a huge victory in our lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to suspend the Clean Water Rule.

This was a tremendous win for protecting rivers, wetlands and clean drinking water nationwide. The court made clear that the Trump administration cannot ignore the law, science, or the views of the American people in its rush to undermine protection of rivers and clean water.

What’s the Clean Water Rule?

The Clean Water Rule is an Obama-era rule that protects the small streams and wetlands that are the drinking water sources for one in three Americans. Safeguarding these waters is critical, not only for our drinking water, but for flood protection and fish and wildlife habitat. The rule protects streams and wetlands from pollution, filling, and other degradation that would harm the environment and downstream communities.

The Court Ruling

The federal district court in South Carolina granted our motion for summary judgment, ruling that the administration’s attempted suspension of the rule failed to comply with the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Specifically, the court ruled that the administration failed to provide adequate opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed suspension and failed to consider the merits of the Clean Water Rule before trying to suspend it. The court said that, while administrations and regulatory priorities may change, they must comply with the law in making those changes. The court issued a nationwide injunction against the suspension of the Clean Water Rule because of the national impact on rivers and wetlands. The court cited my affidavit as American Rivers CEO, in which I listed the many different states where I have fished that would be affected by the suspension of the Clean Water Rule.

What’s next?

The federal district court’s decision is not the final word. The administration or industry will likely appeal the decision, other litigation is ongoing, and the administration will undoubtedly continue its efforts to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule. Also, there are other injunctions in place from two other lawsuits brought by several states, blocking the implementation of the Clean Water Rule in 24 states. Ultimately, these issues will be resolved by the Supreme Court, by Congress, or by a future administration. But today’s ruling makes clear that the current administration, like any other, is bound by law in pursuing its effort to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule.

Thank you to all of our supporters who make possible our ongoing work defending rivers and clean water. We are also grateful to the Southern Environmental Law Center which is representing American Rivers in this litigation.