Supreme Court could throw out 50 years of clean water protections

September 29, 2022

September 28, 2022 

Amy Souers Kober, 503-708-1145 ,
Gary Belan, 703-786-3442

The Supreme Court hearing in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency represents a precarious tipping point for clean water safeguards vital to the health and safety of millions of Americans. On October 3, the Court will hear arguments to throw out 50 years of precedence concerning how the Clean Water Act protects rivers, streams, and clean water.

Before the Clean Water Act, rivers were regularly treated as sewers, with pollution of all kinds being dumped into them – the burning Cuyahoga River is the most memorable example of the state of our rivers before the Act was passed. Should the Court rule against the Environmental Protection Agency, countless streams and wetlands would no longer be protected and polluters would be given free rein to use our nation’s waters as sewers once more.

Tom Kiernan, President of American Rivers, made the following statement: 

“Life depends on rivers. We need clean water for drinking, for the food we eat, for the safety of our communities and the health of our rivers. Weakening clean water protections would be disastrous to communities, the economy and our environment. The Supreme Court must hold the line and reject this attempt to take our nation backwards.  For many communities faced with poverty and unsafe water, this is quite literally an issue of life or death.

“Should the Court rule against the Environmental Protection Agency, it would be ruling against 50 years of clean water protections, 50 years of sound, common sense approaches and against everyone who depends on clean water in our rivers and streams. It would weaken EPA’s authority to protect people from pollution in rivers and streams across the country. 

“Communities nationwide will face health and safety threats, with low-income communities and Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, and Tribal Nations facing disproportionate burdens.  All life needs healthy rivers. Without strong federal protections, the rivers that are the lifeblood of our nation will suffer irreparable harm.”