Scalia-less Supreme Court OKs Chesapeake Bay Clean Up

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There’s a reason there are supposed to be an odd number of judges serving on the Supreme Court.

With nine people voting, it’s very rare that a decision turns out to be a tie. But with only eight justices serving (and no prospect of a ninth anytime soon), when the court is evenly decided on a case, then the lower court’s ruling stands.

It’s unclear whether or not the tie vote was a factor in the nation’s highest court’s rejection of a challenge to a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay–though some experts seem to think that it was.

Whatever the reason, the fact that the Supreme Court won’t hear the challenge means that the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, a “pollution diet” that sets strict standards for cleaning up the Bay, can move forward. Agricultural groups had opposed the blueprint, saying that it would give the Environmental Protection Agency too much power. Not coincidentally, agriculture is the biggest source of sediment and chemical runoff pollution in the Bay.

Environmental groups praised the news: “Today is a great day for the Chesapeake’s fish, crabs, and other wildlife,” National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O’Mara said in a statement. “Now it is time for all parties to the lawsuit to come together, roll up their sleeves, and work collaboratively to restore the Bay.”

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