Federal Court Directs EPA to Uphold Clean Water Act in Baltimore

March 27, 2019

Agency Must Reconsider Petition from Local Groups


Daniela Arellano, NRDC, 310-434-2304, darellano@nrdc.org
Amy Kober, American Rivers, 503-708-1145, akober@americanrivers.org
Angela Haren, Blue Water Baltimore, 415-310-3550, aharen@bluewaterbaltimore.org

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2019) – A federal judge in Maryland has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Clean Water Act by wrongfully denying a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Blue Water Baltimore, and American Rivers to regulate harmful runoff pollution from commercial, industrial and institutional sites in Baltimore’s Back River watershed.

The ruling will require that the EPA reconsider the groups’ petition and determine whether polluted runoff from commercial, industrial, and institutional sites are contributing to violations of water quality standards.

“The court’s ruling is a step forward in our ongoing efforts to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting important waterways,” said Rebecca Hammer, Deputy Director of Federal Water Policy at NRDC. “We will keep fighting to ensure the EPA considers the evidence we’ve presented on the harmful impacts of stormwater runoff on the Back River,” Hammer added. “We’re hopeful the EPA will make the right decision for the people and wildlife that call this watershed home.”

“Commercial, industrial, and institutional property owners should be held responsible to reduce their own stormwater pollution, not local governments and by extension the taxpayers,” said Angela Haren, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper at Blue Water Baltimore. “We are thrilled the court agrees that EPA cannot avoid its mandate to determine whether these discharges contribute to violations of water quality standards in the Back River,” she added.

“Across the country, our rivers and streams are polluted by the permanent runoff from our already-built urban environment,” said Jeff Odefey, Director, Clean Water Supply Program at American Rivers. “This victory is an important step in finally getting to the source of that problem and increasing accountability for property owners.”

The victory comes at the heels of a similar case in Los Angeles, in which another federal district court also found that the EPA had violated the Clean Water Act, by denying petitions by NRDC and local partners to regulate stormwater dischargers in two Southern California watersheds.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

Blue Water Baltimore is a nonprofit organization with a mission to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and Harbor to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy and thriving communities. Blue Water Baltimore combines science with advocacy and enforcement to improve clean water laws and hold polluters accountable.

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters and volunteers.