SUPREME COURT RULES UNANIMOUSLY DAMS MUST OBEY CLEAN WATER LAW
Submitted by Ted Williams on Tue, 05/16/2006 - 06:53.
May 15, 2006 Contact: Brad DeVries (American Rivers) 202-243-7023 Richard Lazarus (Georgetown University Law) 202-662-9129 SUPREME COURT RULES UNANIMOUSLY – DAMS MUST OBEY CLEAN WATER LAW Court Finds 9-0 for State Rights in Clean Water Cases WASHINGTON – American Rivers hailed today’s decisive 9-0 rejection by the United States Supreme Court of a South African company’s bid to exempt five hydroelectric dams it owns in Maine from the Clean Water Act. The court rejected the company’s arguments in S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection with a common-sense decision that recognized well-established science that dams can have a huge impact on water quality. “It was beyond ludicrous for S.D. Warren to argue that its dam didn’t have to comply with the Clean Water Act,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “This is a victory for rivers, for the clean water, and most of all for good old common sense.” While many dams provide benefits, they can also cause considerable harm to rivers, as well as local communities. Dams have depleted fisheries, degraded river ecosystems, and diminished recreational and economic opportunities on rivers across the nation. Since 1970, states have used their authority under the Clean Water Act to require hydroelectric dams to mitigate their detrimental effects on water quality. S.D. Warren’s challenge could have rendered states incapable of setting even basic conditions for the operation of hydropower dams within their borders. As formal parties to the case, American Rivers and Friends of the Presumpscot River (FOPR) strongly supported the state of Maine’s right to establish requirements for dams on its rivers. They were joined by the Bush Administration, a bipartisan group of 36 state attorneys general, a coalition of more than four dozen conservation and fishing groups, American Indian tribes, and leading river scientists and engineers, and others that filed amicus or “friend of the Court” briefs. “We applaud the State of Maine as well as all of the other parties who strongly supported the rights of states to protect their rivers,” said Wodder. “Some cases are complicated, but this one wasn’t. Dams can hurt water quality, so water quality protection laws have to apply; it’s a no-brainer,” Wodder said. “We hope that the Court will apply this same common sense approach to the remaining Clean Water Act cases before them and affirm that all waters of the United States are deserving of federal protection.”