Many of us are reeling from the (not unexpected) death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this weekend because it feels like the critical block in the teetering Jenga tower of our democracy just got pulled out and the whole thing might come crumbling down now. Justice Ginsburg’s voice on the court for 27 years and her work as a litigator for many years prior to that is best known for her tireless insistence on fairness, equity, and justice for all people. She fought for equal rights for women, for people who are LGBTQ+, and many other previously under-protected groups. Justice Ginsburg has also ruled in favor of the environment in several landmark Supreme Court cases within the last 15 years. The decisions in these environmental cases were not split cleanly down the lines of conservative vs. liberal justices as they often are, likely because most of the Justices recognize that the protection and sustainable use of our natural resources and the stability of our climate is critical to the survival of our nation and all of humanity. Many more such cases focusing on environmental protection for current and future generations will surely reach the Supreme Court in the coming years, and we need to ensure that those serving on the court will use science-based reasoning in their fair hearing of those cases and not be swayed by the whims of politics.
Most recently in April 2020, in County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, the Supreme court ruled 6 to 3 that polluted groundwater discharging into navigable surface waters must be regulated under the Clean Water Act just like direct pollution of surface water is. This is notable as regulatory parameters for the Clean Water Act had previously been vague in their extension to groundwater supplies.
As a county that relies on a “sole source aquifer,” which means that the majority of our drinking water comes from a restricted section of the Floridan aquifer, we must remain particularly mindful of how we use and protect our groundwater supplies here in Volusia County. The risk of serious groundwater pollution from pesticides, fertilizers, flame retardants, and various industrial effluents is real here, and threatens both our drinking water supply and our beautiful springs where that groundwater discharges into our lakes and rivers. The Supreme Court has ruled that groundwater is protected under the Clean Water Act. Let’s do our part here to uphold that, and let’s make sure that all current and future Supreme Court Justices continue to make decisions that protect our natural resources as well as the rights to liberty and justice for all people. I’m ready to get to work. Are you?