This week, the Fourth Circuit issued a decision in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. that addresses three key issues arising in many federal Clean Water Act (CWA) cases:

  1. How, as a legal matter, courts treat “historic” contamination under the CWA;
  2. Whether good-faith remedial efforts undertaken under the supervision of relevant agencies by themselves strip federal jurisdiction over citizen suits under similar legal authority; and
  3. Whether CWA-regulated “pollutants” need to discharge directly into CWA-regulated “navigable waters” to violate the CWA.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Decision Addresses Three Key Clean Water Issues

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) often seems like the forgotten federal environmental statute in that it gets less attention in the press and judicial decisions than statutes like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund).  That said, a judge on the Northern District of California issued a high-profile TSCA decision worthy of some discussion. Continue Reading Federal Court Issues Key Decision on NGO Challenge to Use of Fluoride in Water

The Ninth Circuit issued its long-anticipated decision in the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui case yesterday. County of Maui affirmed a decision awarding summary judgment to environmental groups based on what the court viewed to be undisputed proof that four effluent disposal wells at a wastewater disposal facility were known to discharge into the Pacific Ocean and that the County of Maui had failed to secure an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for them. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Issues Decision in Novel Clean Water Act Case

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky sided with a utility and dismissed a citizen suit based on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Clean Water Act (CWA). The opinion contradicts other recent federal court decisions analyzing the applicability of the CWA to coal ash discharges through groundwater.

Continue Reading Kentucky Decision Has Implications for Utilities Fighting Citizen Suits

For decades, the extent of regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) has been the subject of a great deal of litigation. Typically, the litigation involves a challenge to the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to require a CWA permit, by private parties – chiefly real estate developers and industry groups – seeking to constrain that authority and limit permitting requirements. A November 28, 2017 decision by the Ninth Circuit in the case of United States v. Robertson is the latest – but by no means the last – decision in a long line of cases wrangling over the definition of “waters of the United States” under the CWA. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decision Means Flood of Litigation Over “Waters of the U.S.” Definition Will Continue Despite Trump Administration Efforts

Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposed delaying implementation of the rule defining the term “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) for two years. This is one of many moving pieces involving the WOTUS rule at this time, and another step by the agencies under the Trump administration towards maintaining the status quo and ensuring the 2015 rule is not implemented. Continue Reading The EPA and Army Propose to Delay WOTUS Rule until 2020

In response to utility industry requests, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued interim final guidance earlier this month that sets forth a process for state submission and criteria for approval of state-led Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) permit programs under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. Continue Reading Utilities Empowered to Help Shape How Coal Ash is Regulated

Consistent with President Trump’s February 28, 2017 Executive Order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a joint proposal representing the first step of a two-part plan to implement a more narrow “waters of the U.S.” or “WOTUS” definition. The first step, published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2017, seeks to repeal the 2015 WOTUS rule, and replace prior rules. Continue Reading Next Steps in EPA Deferral to States: Waters of the U.S. Rule Repeal and Replacement

On April 12, 2017, the EPA announced that it will reconsider and administratively stay future deadlines of the 2015 final rule that set new, technology-based effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and standards for steam electric power plants under the Clean Water Act. The final rule places significant burden on affected segments of the steam electric power generating industry. While certain requirements of the new ELGs were generally set to become effective as soon as November 1, 2018 through incorporation into NPDES permits, the compliance timetable and future of the final rule is now unclear. Continue Reading EPA Announces Stay of Deadlines and Reconsideration of ELGs for Steam Electric Power Plants