Thursday, July 03, 2014

Friends of the Everglades: headed to the US Supreme Court for a third time? … by gimleteye

Friends of the Everglades is a tiny, Miami-based environmental organization. Yet it is the lead plaintiff in one of the nation's most critical court cases related to water pollution; a case that has been heard twice in the US Supreme Court but not yet settled. There is a huge amount at stake. Huge, as in whether polluters will ever be held fully accountable for their costs of pollution.

Our entire political system is organized along the lines of socializing these costs of pollution -- and shifting profits to large corporations. If you want a close, narrow view of how it works, just check out today's blog post by G.O.D. outlining the massive campaign contributions flowing to an incumbent first-term county commissioner in Miami-Dade, Lynda Bell, who is fighting against a well-organized challenger. Bell's signature achievement has been to consistently represent inside, special interests that are determined to roll-back environmental regulations. While she, herself, has little clue about the long history and struggle to put in place regulations that were meant to protect water quality in Miami-Dade, her campaign funders certainly do -- and if they don't, all they need to do is hear the word "anti-regulation" and their wallets flop open.

The bottom line to the question: shouldn't the polluter pay? Not if your government has anything to do with the outcome. It wants YOU to pay.

Water Policy: EPA to appeal decision sending transfer rule back to agency

U.S. EPA will appeal a federal district court ruling that sent its controversial water transfer rule back to the agency for reconsideration.
Court watchers on both sides of the case had been anxiously waiting to see if EPA would appeal the ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In March, that court sent the George W. Bush-era water transfer rule back to the agency, holding that its "justification doesn't hold water."

The 2008 rule exempted government transfers between bodies of water from obtaining federal discharge permits under the Clean Water Act, as long as those transfers don't involve industrial, municipal or commercial use.

Municipalities that rely on sophisticated pumping systems to provide water to their residents, such as South Florida and New York City, strongly support the rule, noting that the permuting process would be costly.

Environmentalists have long criticized it, however. They claim it adds dirty water to public drinking water supplies.

The Sierra Club and Friends of the Everglades, among others, brought the current lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas sided with their arguments in a lengthy and abstruse opinion that has left several involved in the case wondering how far EPA would have to go to comply with it.

EPA had justified the rule by saying that the transfers don't constitute adding pollutants to "navigable waters" -- those covered by the Clean Water Act -- because water being moved from one navigable body to another navigable body via pipes or canals retained the "status" of navigability. Therefore, EPA said, the transfers don't require permits under the Clean Water Act.

But Karas held that the rule broadened the definition of "navigable" beyond Supreme Court precedent (Greenwire, March 31).
The ruling put EPA in a difficult spot because the Obama administration has signaled it doesn't entirely agree with the policy. But the water office has been busy drafting a new, broader waters policy.

Eleven Western states and the Southern Florida Water Management District have already announced their intent to appeal the ruling (Greenwire, May 28).

Some environmental attorneys speculated that EPA may want to participate in the appeal because the case could end up at the Supreme Court.
The Western Governors' Association applauded EPA's decision to further pursue the case.

"Western states rely on thousands of intrastate and regional transfers to move billions of gallons of water to satisfy domestic, agricultural and industrial needs," Executive Director Jim Ogsbury said in a statement. "Requiring NPDES permits for these transfers will be prohibitively expensive and could curtail certain transfers, with little if any water quality benefits."

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