Maine Wins In United States Supreme Court

May 15, 2006

The United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision today in S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection affirming states' powers to enforce state water quality standards as part of the federal licensing of hydropower dams under the federal Clean Water Act. The decision is available here: S.D. Warren appealed from a unanimous ruling of the Maine Law Court issued in February, 2005, which is available here: Attorney General Steve Rowe, who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, said, "The impact of this decision will be felt well beyond the State of Maine. This is a victory for states as the primary enforcers of the Clean Water Act. The decision will lay to rest any doubt that states have the primary role under the Act in restoring the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation's waters. "

Rowe stated that "The decision will benefit Maine people and our fish and wildlife resources for generations to come." Rowe also noted that he was particularly pleased that Justice Souter, in writing the opinion for the Supreme Court, quoted from Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, the principal author of the Clean Water Act, in emphasizing that the federal Clean Water Act preserved state authority to address the broad range of pollution in our nation's waters. "Senator Muskie would be very pleased to know that the Supreme Court kept faith with his intent that states should be able to develop and enforce their own water quality standards under the Clean Water Act." Rowe added, "I believe that we in Maine have a special duty to defend Senator Muskie's legacy of clean water and clean air protection. We are pleased that we succeeded in this case."

Rowe also noted that the decision is particularly important because it will allow states to move forward with efforts to restore the biological integrity of rivers and promote the recovery of anadromous fish populations (i.e., fish that migrate from oceans upstream in rivers to spawn) in rivers with hydroelectric dams.

Rowe praised the lawyers in his office who worked on the case, "Assistant Attorneys General Carol Blasi and Jerry Reid and Deputy Attorney General Paul Stern did the heavy lifting on this case. The people of Maine should be very proud of them." Rowe also praised the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for its assistance on the case. He particularly singled out Dana Murch, Dams and Hydro Director, for his help.

Supreme Court watchers anxiously awaited today's decision, believing that it would provide the first indication of how the newly-minted Court, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, would view environmental and federalism cases. In fact, the oral argument was only the second that Justice Alito heard.

The Associated Press story describing the argument can be found here: