Washington, D.C. – The pesticide industry has again been rebuffed in its attempt to exempt the spraying of pesticides into lakes, ponds, and streams from the Clean Water Act’s permitting program. On February 22, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider a challenge to an order by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that nullified a 2006 EPA rule granting the exemption.

The decision marks an end to four years of litigation over the illegal rule, which was adopted by the Bush Administration at the urging of pesticide manufacturers and agribusiness groups. NELC, helping to lead a nationwide coalition of attorneys, sued EPA on behalf of Environment Maine and the Toxics Action Center, and in 2009 won a strongly-worded ruling from the Sixth Circuit rejecting the Bush Administration’s position as contrary to the plain language of the Clean Water Act. Several industry groups asked the Sixth Circuit to reconsider its decision, but were denied.

Unwilling to submit to that court’s judgment, and apparently hoping to woo conservatives on the higher court, the industry groups then petitioned for Supreme Court review, lining up a host of amicus parties, including 38 sitting members of Congress, to file written briefs in support. Despite this display of industry influence, the Supreme Court accepted NELC’ s position and announced in February 2010 that it would let the lower court ruling stand.

“Now the focus shifts to EPA,” said NELC attorney Joe Mann. “The agency has a clear mandate to develop meaningful permits for these discharges that will protect our nation’s waters from the harmful effects of pesticides.”