Posts tagged clean water act.

On Tuesday, December 7, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers published for public comment a proposed rule revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”).  The agencies indicate the proposal would “meet the objective of the Clean Water Act and ensure critical protections for the nation’s vital water resources, which support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth across the United States.”

The proposed rule replaces the “interstate commerce” test ...

In late July, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (“ENRD”) of the Department of Justice released a memo setting forth the Division’s policy for handling enforcement of civil Clean Water Act matters when a State has previously instituted a civil penalty proceeding under an analogous state law arising from the same operative facts.  The policy reflects a cooperative federalism theme, which follows the current U.S. EPA’s commitment to work cooperatively with states and to acknowledge, respect, and promote the critical role they play in implementing the Federal ...

Posted in: Clean Water Act, EPA

Apropos of the ongoing celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Supreme Court today released its opinion in the Clean Water Act case of County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al.  Justice Breyer delivered the majority opinion, joined by Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Kavanaugh. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, as well as Justice Alito, filed dissenting opinions.

The Court’s analysis addresses the question of whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a ...

On January 23, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “Agencies”) issued the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” as the latest attempt to define the phrase “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) in the Clean Water Act.  The rule, also referred to as the “Replacement Rule,” will be effective sixty (60) days after its publication in the Federal Register.  The Replacement Rule is the second step of a two-step process identified by the Agencies to address the Obama administration’s much litigated 2015 Rule, or ...

Posted in: EPA

On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order granting review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, setting the stage for a landmark decision on Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The particular issue under consideration is whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater. In January, the U.S. Solicitor General filed a brief – at the Court’s request – urging the Justices to decide the question ...

On January 3, 2019, the U.S. Solicitor General filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund to decide the question of whether a "discharge of a pollutant occurs when a pollutant is released through a point source, travels through groundwater, and ultimately migrates to navigable waters."  The brief suggests review is warranted to resolve the issue conflicting with the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits, as well as the "numerous district courts" that have confronted cases involving claims of unpermitted discharges to waters of the ...

Can you appeal a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdictional determination ("JD") that a water feature constitutes waters of the United States? The Administrative Procedures Act allows such an appeal if it is determined that no further action is available in court. However, the Corps has historically taken the position that its jurisdictional determination is not appealable and it is only when a permit is denied that one can challenge the jurisdictional determination. On December 11, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes ...

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the controversial EPA/Corps of Engineers Clean Water Rule which was effective August 28, 2015. A copy of the decision is HERE. Some 30 states, industry and environmental groups had petitions pending in a number of circuit courts and all were consolidated in the Sixth Circuit. In what appears to be an interesting ruling, the three judge panel essentially expressed a desire to have the rule fully litigated before enforcing it. According to the Court:

A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that ...

On September 4, 2014, District Court Judge Carl Barbier issued his "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law - Phase One Trial" in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation. In his 153 page opinion, Judge Barbier found BP liable for gross negligence and willful misconduct under the Clean Water Act, which is also known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Judge Barbier focused largely on the many dangerous decisions that were taken on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before the explosion. BP subsequently filed a motion in which it asked Judge Barbier to reconsider his opinion. On ...

In a news release dated March 25th 2014, EPA and the Army Corps outlined a new proposed joint rule to clarify the scope and definition of the "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act in an attempt to address issues raised in two separate Supreme Court cases decided in 2001 and 2006. The proposed rule clarifies what upstream waters, including natural and artificial wetlands, tributaries and other types of waters are regulated due to their relationship with downstream waters and watersheds. As the news release provides, the proposed rule clarifies that the following are ...

On March 25, the US Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule to clarify Clean Water Act jurisdiction over streams and wetlands by re-defining "Waters of the United States" in light of a series of Supreme Court decisions wrestling with the issue of whether a particular water body (e.g., "isolated wetlands," man-made ditches and the like) were subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule seeks to clarify regulation over upstream waters and to increase efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act ...

In mid-September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly submitted a proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget intended to clarify which waters and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. The EPA announcement of the action along with supporting information can be found on the Agency's website. The proposed rule represents these agencies' latest effort to clarify the scope of federal jurisdiction under the CWA and thereby resolve long standing uncertainty about which water bodies and activities are regulated by the law. The proposal, if adopted, would likely have its most significant impact on small streams and certain wetlands that would be determined to be hydrologically connected to and to have impacts on larger downstream waters. The draft rule is based on peer-reviewed science reflected in a draft report titled Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters. This document is a synthesis of scientific evidence on the connectivity of streams and wetlands assembled by EPA's Office of Research and Development and can be viewed here. While the proposed rule is not yet available for public comment, the draft study is. Comments will be accepted until November 6, 2013, and a three- day public meeting will be held December 16 through 18, in Washington, D.C. At least some observers believe that the proposed rule will not simply clarify CWA jurisdiction, but expand it. For example, see this from the Association of Water Agencies, and this from the Washington Post. The Agencies' action ultimately results from the U.S. Supreme Court decision Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715, 126 S.Ct. 2208 (2006). That plurality decision left some uncertainty with respect to the Court's view of the scope of the CWA jurisdiction. The Court made clear that CWA jurisdiction includes, at least, traditional navigable waters, wetlands adjacent to those waters, non-navigable tributaries to traditional navigable waters where the tributary has at least continuous seasonal flow, and wetlands abutting such tributaries. However, this left open the question of jurisdiction regarding other waterbodies and the scope of that jurisdiction where applicable. Initially, EPA and Corps provided informal guidance on the scope of jurisdiction at least with respect to certain types of waters including non-navigable tributaries that are not relatively permanent; wetlands adjacent to such tributaries; and wetlands adjacent to but not directly abutting relatively permanent non-navigable tributaries. The proposed rule is intended to replace this informal guidance, and it may expand the scope of jurisdiction in the process. For more information on environmental law topics, please contact one of the Burr & Forman team members for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Posted in: CWA, EPA

The U. S. Supreme Court's March 20, 2013, decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center is good news for the logging industry. The Clean Water Act (Act) and EPA's Silvicultural Rule (Regulation) do not require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for discharges of chan ­neled stormwater runoff from logging roads. Permits will be required for logging operations that involve rock crushing, gravel washing, log sorting and log storage facilities. Georgia-Pacific West had a contract with Oregon to har ­vest timber from a state forest. When ...

The Supreme Court had oral arguments last Monday (December 3) in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, just after EPA the previous Friday (November 30) surprisingly issued a new rule clarifying that a NPDES permit is not required for stormwater discharges from logging roads. EPA, in its statement on the new rule, says: "In Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown (NEDC), 640 F.3d 1063 (9th Cir. 2011), a citizen suit was filed alleging violations of the Clean Water Act for discharging stormwater from ditches alongside two logging roads in state forests without a ...

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