The Clean Water Justice Act

Sponsors: Del. Sara Love & Sen. Malcolm Augustine

Clean Water Justice Act infographic

Why We Need the Bill

The Clean Water Justice Act allows communities impacted by water pollution to enforce the law against polluters. This access to the courts to enforce the law and protect communities from pollution was at the heart of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court greatly cut back this right in the recent decision of Sackett vs. EPA, where they removed countless streams and wetlands across the country from CWA protection.

Fortunately, Maryland still protects these waterways, but the state has no right for communities to enforce the law like under the CWA, now curtailed due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Virtually all of the noteworthy water pollution enforcement actions have been brought by community groups, with the state often then subsequently filing an enforcement action, allowing the community groups to work alongside the state to enforce the law.

This partnership is something that has brought crucial capacity to the state to enforce the law and utilizes the community members as the eyes and ears on the water. These partnerships have been touted by both MDE and the Attorney General’s office as a tremendous success and have improved environmental accountability. But, the Supreme Court’s decision will cut off much of this potential unless we fix it with this bill.

We are not powerless to accomplish this change, but we are powerless as a people if we wait for someone else to do it for us. The power of the people is in the courtsand through them we can require polluters to obey the law.

— Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, principal architect of the Clean Water Act

What the Bill Does

  • Provides a new right for impacted community members, who show standing, to enforce the law in state court the same way that they were previously able to do in federal court Uses the same criteria for standing as would be required in federal court
  • Repairs the threat to Maryland’s critical water resources caused by the U.S. Supreme Court

What the bill does not do:

  • Does not create a right of judicial review of final agency actions.
  • Does not expand standing beyond that provided by federal courts

Supporting Organizations

Potomac Riverkeeper Network * Chesapeake Legal Alliance * Waterkeepers Chesapeake * ShoreRivers * Arundel Rivers Federation * Blue Water Baltimore * Maryland LCV * Chesapeake Bay Foundation * Potomac Conservancy * Clean Water Action * Maryland Sierra Club * Gunpowder Riverkeeper * Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper * Anacostia Riverkeeper * Assateague Coastkeeper * Patuxent Riverkeeper * Severn Riverkeeper * Climate XChange * Interfaith Partnership for the Environment * Severn River Federation * League of Women Voters * Trash Free Maryland * MD Conservation Council * MD NAACP * and counting…


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