Share this Post:

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Earthjustice Defends Nation's Waterways at Supreme Court

    SIGN-UP for our latest news and action alerts:
   Please leave this field empty

Facebook Fans

Related Blog Entries

by Liz Judge:
EPA Shares Water Priorities, Action Timelines on Twitter

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that 55 percent of U.S. streams and rivers are in “poor” condition, according to its most ...

by Trip Van Noppen:
Stacking the Halls of Justice

Over the past four years, the federal halls of justice have been left partially hollow as the number of judicial vacancies in the federal courts conti...

by Liz Judge:
The March Toward Justice Begins

This week more than 600 concerned citizens will participate in the largest mass mobilization against mountaintop removal mining that this country has ...

Earthjustice on Twitter

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
12 January 2009, 2:37 PM
Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo argues to protect Lower Slate Lake

Earthjustice press secretary Raviya Ismail was at today’s (Jan. 12) U.S. Supreme Court hearing on whether the Clean Water Act allows Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine to fill Lower Slate Lake in Alaska with mining waste – killing all aquatic life. Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo argued to protect the lake. The high court decision, expected by June, could determine whether waterways throughout the nation may be likewise filled and killed. Here is Raviya’s report:

About 150 people showed up at today’s hearing. The justices seemed split over whether to save the lake. A key issue in the case is the definition of “fill” material under the Clean Water Act.

During his argument, Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo stressed that, unlike ordinary fill material, the mining waste is in the form of industrial wastewater slurry full of chemicals that will destroy Lower Slate Lake. Therefore a permit allowing the deposit of fill into the lake cannot be used and violates the Clean Water Act.

Justice Ruth Ginsberg questioned the practice of calling material used to reclaim land as fill and dumping that material into water sources.

"Can any water of the United States be a settling pond?" she inquired. "Is it just up to the Corps of Engineers?"

Justice Stephen Breyer said filling a water body with a substance and calling it non-toxic just because it remains there is "counterintuitive."

Justice Scalia questioned Waldo on the alternative - discharging the waste on dry land.

Waldo agreed that there would be adverse impacts with the alternative, "but not as bad as filling a lake and killing all the fish and aquatic wildlife."

Mining company lawyer Theodore Olson argued that the mining deposits were “not hurting the water quality of the lake,” to which Justice David Souter replied: “But it's going to kill every living creature in the lake, right?”

Olson admitted, “Yes, it is, Justice Souter.”

When Olson insisted that the lake would ultimately be better off with the fill in it, Justice Souter said such logic was “Orwellian.”

Go to the Earthjustice website for more information about the case.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <p> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.