Merchant & Gould’s Minneapolis Team Wins Pro Bono Case, Protecting Minnesota Rivers from Phosphorus Pollution

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Congratulations to Merchant & Gould’s pro bono team -- Paige Stradley, attorney; Michael Erbele, attorney; Kristin Drieman, litigation paralegal; and Anne-Marie Larkin, legal assistant -- for their work around environmental issues and pollution.  This is a win for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), as well as for Minnesota’s rivers.

With their help, on March 31, MCEA won a court case upholding the “River Eutrophication Standard,” a 2014 rule limiting phosphorus pollution in Minnesota. Phosphorus discharges are a key component of nutrient pollution that causes dangerous algae blooms in our waterways. MCEA’s petition to the EPA in 2009 asking for stronger state standards led to the rulemaking process that resulted in the River Eutrophication Standard.

Paige and Michael acted as pro bono counsel for the MCEA, with support from Kristin and Anne-Marie, defending the River Eutrophication Standard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Center for Regulatory Reasonableness v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenged the EPA’s approval of water quality standards that MCEA sought to protect rivers and streams from nutrient pollution. MCEA intervened in this case, alongside EPA and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It was the latest in a series of legal cases filed by opponents of strong water quality standards. Once again, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the phosphorus protections, concluding “[n]othing in the administrative record before me suggests that EPA’s decisions … were arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law. Quite the opposite, the record here reflects precisely the sort of cooperative federalism that the Clean Water Act envisions.”

Paige and Michael’s work was recognized by Megan Jekot of the MCEA as a key element in the successful defense of this water quality standard.  Dr. Michael Overend, DVM, and MCEA supporter, also added, “The collective Merchant & Gould team is our environmental hero, and we are grateful for their contribution to this important work.”

“Congratulations and thank you to Paige, Michael, Kristin and Anne-Marie for their work and for helping protect our Minnesota rivers,” said Patrick Johnson, P.E., pro bono chair and partner, Merchant & Gould.  “Merchant & Gould is proud to provide bro bono services that make a difference in our community and for our environment.”