Freshwater Future Weekly News: May 26, 2023

Freshwater Future Weekly News: May 26, 2023

Supreme Court Ruling is a Blow to Clean Water Protections

The Supreme Court’s recent rulings dealt a significant blow to wetland protections. In Sackett v. EPA, the Court unanimously supported a family and their real estate backers who wanted to fill in wetlands on their private property, despite the U.S. EPA’s argument that it violated the Clean Water Act. Additionally, a 5-4 conservative majority ruling altered the test for determining the protection of wetlands as “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), causing uncertainty. Jill Ryan, Executive Director of Freshwater Future stated, “Wetlands are critical resources for reducing flooding, filtering pollutants, and providing critical areas for fish and wildlife to reproduce.  In our Great Lakes region, this decision jeopardizes billions of dollars spent on restoring our waters and wetlands, puts homeowners at increased risk of flooding, and threatens the multi-billion dollar industries of fishing, wildlife viewing, and recreation.” Looking ahead, it is now more important than ever to ensure these threatened lands are protected at the state level.

100-year Joliet Water Diversion Deal Removes Waters from the Great Lakes 

The city of Chicago signed a deal to sell treated drinking water from Lake Michigan to the city of Joliet, IL, and five other area communities after a study determined current sources would not meet future demand. The one billion dollar deal, made last month, is set to begin in 2030 and last for a century. However, the question of whether Chicago can legally sell Great Lakes water is complex. Read more about this diversion and how it relates to the Great Lakes Compact.

Line 5 Update: Resistance in Wisconsin and Michigan

Recently, we reported that Bad River erosion during spring flooding prompted concerns about the proximity of the Line 5 pipeline to the river. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sought an emergency shutdown of the pipeline in federal court due to the risk of it becoming exposed and rupturing. Michigan’s Attorney General also supported the tribe by filing an amicus brief, emphasizing the potential harm from an oil release into Lake Superior. However, the judge has ruled that the tribe should cooperate with the oil company’s effort to reinforce the riverbank instead of an immediate shutdown.

New Toxic Coal Ash Rules Address Legacy Pollution, Some Loopholes Remain

The U.S. EPA has proposed rules to improve monitoring and cleanup of toxic coal ash landfills from coal-fired power plants. This is a result of a settlement between the EPA and environmental groups and a win for the environment. However, these rules may not cover pollution at around 100 waste sites or the use of coal ash in road construction. Ashley Williams, Executive Director of Just Transition Northwest Indiana (JTNWI), states “This is our collective moment that we have long been waiting for, to bring a mighty voice to this silent crisis. In Michigan City, like so many communities, we are sick and tired of being sacrificed by utility profiteers.” Public comments on the proposed revisions are open until July 17th. Check out JTNWI’s petition to the EPA and stay tuned for actions from Freshwater Future on this issue.

Photo Credit: JTNWI