What to know With the fate of the Clean Water Act hanging in the balance, the Supreme Court delivered a momentous verdict on County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund on Thursday, April 23.
The case centers on the County of Maui’s belief that the CWA only covers direct pollution discharge, not pollution that travels through groundwater. Because the county didn’t dump their wastewater directly into the ocean, they viewed any punishment as completely unjustified. The Trump administration decided to go against 40 years of EPA precedent and sided with the County of Maui.
Why it matters The decision sets a precedent for regulating indirect sources of pollution. Past decisions will need to be re-evaluated, like the 2018 appellate court rulings that ruled against requiring permits for coal ash impoundments.
Bottom line We are privileged to live in a country with a justice system that enables an environmental group to overrule a government-run wastewater treatment plant. Behind the scenes, groups like Earthjustice fight daily to represent our interests and protect the planet.
We must continue to educate ourselves on the nuances of the environmental laws that exist to protect us.
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