Supreme Court sides with Friends of the Earth
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Denies petition seeking weaker pollution limits on river pollution
In January of 2007, the United States Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling requiring limits on the amount of pollution allowed in the Anacostia river each day. Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth obtained a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals last year requiring EPA to set the daily pollution caps, and today’s high Court action rejected an attempt by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority to overturn the Court of Appeals’ decision. The Anacostia runs through the heart of our nation’s capital and has been described as one of the dirtiest rivers in the country.
Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that an EPA-approved plan to limit pollution into the river was contrary to requirements in the Clean Water Act to set “total maximum daily loads” of pollutants. Although the law clearly requires “daily” pollution caps, EPA instead set these caps for certain pollutants as long-term annual and seasonal averages.
The court disagreed with this approach, writing in its opinion that, “‘Daily’ connotes ‘every day’…Doctors making daily rounds would be of little use to their patients if they appeared seasonally or annually. And no one thinks of ‘[g]ive us this day our daily bread’ as a prayer for sustenance on a seasonal or annual basis.”