Court Upholds Pathbreaking Plan to Reduce Water Pollution

San Diego Superior Court Throws Out Major Lawsuit Challenging New, Effective Stormwater Regulations

(Los Angeles) February 14, 2003 -- A San Diego Superior Court Judge threw out a major lawsuit filed by dischargers challenging the region's stormwater permit, which was issued in 2001 under the federal Clean Water Act. On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Wayne L. Peterson dismissed an action filed by the building and construction industry seeking to invalidate the new stormwater control plan. The Court ruled in favor of the State Water Resources Control Board, as well as NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), San Diego BayKeeper and California CoastKeeper, who intervened in the action in support of the permit.

The stormwater permit aims to effectively reduce the number one source of pollution to California's coast. The permit requires innovative measures such as drain filters, silt-removal basins and inspections as well as traditional measures such as public education and street sweeping. The permit is one of the first in California to require actual results, as measured by real reductions in pollution plumes.

Because many of the recently reissued stormwater permits throughout California are modeled after the San Diego permit, the Court's ruling shapes the stormwater debate in favor of clean water. Presently, six lawsuits challenging a similar permit in Los Angeles County are pending in Superior Court in Los Angeles. The June 2002 issue of California Builder, the newsletter of the California Building Industry Association, stated: "The results of the San Diego case will likely shape future actions by the state (Water Quality Control) board and set a precedent on how storm-water is regulated in California."

The Court's ruling came after an all-day hearing in San Diego on February 10. The decision rejects nearly a dozen legal claims lodged by the Building Industry Association, the City of Santee, and the City of San Marcos, who argued that the permit should be overturned. The Court upheld the permit in its entirety and the authority of the state and regional water boards to require both cities and developers to implement and develop control measures to effectively reduce the flow of pathogens, bacteria, toxins and other pollutants to the coast.

NRDC, BayKeeper, and CoastKeeper are enthusiastic about the Court's important decision. "Developers and their allies in local government have launched a full-scale attack on reasonable efforts to reduce the No. 1 source of water pollution in California," said David Beckman, senior attorney with NRDC and lead counsel on the case for the environmental groups. "This decision strikes a blow for clean water."

"This is an important decision and an important milestone," said BayKeeper attorney Marco Gonzalez. "San Diego's waters will be getting cleaner as a result, and that is the bottom line."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

San Diego BayKeeper is a California non-profit public benefit corporation with over 500 members residing in San Diego County. On behalf of our members, San Diego BayKeeper actively pursues actions to protect and preserve the San Diego region's coastal resources, including waters of the State impaired by polluted urban stormwater runoff.