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Surfrider Stands Up for Clean Water at the United States Supreme Court

On September 20th, the County Council voted 5-4 to settle the case with Surfrider and other plaintiffs; however, the Mayor did not act to transmit the settlement offer and essentially blocked the will of the people and local legislators to settle.

Mayor Victorino has continued to align with polluters across the nation, rather than listen to his own constituents, local youth and community interests expressed by the Maui Chapter and our local partners. The local groups have overwhelmingly fought for local solutions and have opposed taking this to the Supreme Court.

Since Mayor Victorino refused to file settlement paperwork for the case, the Surfrider Foundation are headed to the Supreme Court to defend clean water across America, alongside the Hawaii Wildlife, West Maui Preservation Society, Sierra Club, and Earthjustice.

The County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund case threatens to gravely weaken the federal law that protects our nation’s clean water, putting rivers, lakes and oceans at risk. At the heart of the County of Maui’s argument is the contention that even if pollution from a source reaches a river, lake, or other body of water protected by the Clean Water Act, as long as the source is not directly discharging pollution into that water, Maui County is claiming that it is not regulated by the Clean Water Act.

Maui County’s extremist position is that unless a pipe goes directly into the ocean or a lake or river, it’s pollution is completely unregulated by the Clean Water Act. This argument effectively reasons that if an industrial source like a chemical plant or concentrated animal feeding operation next to a river sawed off a few feet of pipe, dumping pollution on a hillside that flows into the river, or redirected the pipe into the groundwater, or even dumped the pollution through the air before reaching the water, it would be unregulated by the Clean Water Act.

If the Supreme Court endorses Maui County’s position, it is effectively painting a roadmap for every polluter in the country to avoid regulation of the discharge of their pollution by the Clean Water Act.

If the Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit’s decision holding that the County’s claims were unlawful, chemical plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, oil refineries, and other industrial facilities could effectively have free rein to discharge pollutants indirectly into the nation’s waters without Clean Water Act permits.

The final outcome of this case could determine whether the American public will continue to be protected from these types of harmful polluting activities.

Member support is essential in this case to protect the integrity of the Clean Water Act and stop sewage being pumped onto our reefs on Maui.

Please join or renew your membership today.

“We have been fighting for nine years for the protection of clean water and public health for all people,” said Tim Lara with the Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter. “This case is about more than defending Maui’s coral reef at Kahekili Beach Park, which has been devastated by the 3-5 million gallons of wastewater dumped into groundwater every day by the County of Maui. This case is also about defending the Clean Water Act and its ability to protect our waterways from pollution, regardless of the route of discharge into protected waterways.” - Tim Lara, Maui Chapter Chair

Read more here, including what to expect and when we might hear a decision