On January 18, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Department of the Army published a new final rule to re-define “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) under the Federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”). Although the rule is set to take effect March 20, 2023, the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision in Michael Sackett, et ux v. EPA, et al., Docket No. 21-454(2022) could establish additional legal precedent as to what constitutes WOTUS and could enable further legal challenges to the rule. If the rule goes into effect, it would broaden the types of water bodies subject to CWA regulation, while providing some clarity with regard to some newly excluded water features.
Clean Water Act
CWA’s Permit Shield Spans SMRCA
Senior Counsel Coty Hopinks-Baul has published an article in Coal Age titled “CWA’s Permit Shield Spans SMRCA”.
In the article, Coty details a recent decision in the case of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards v. Red River Coal Co. Inc., where the Fourth Circuit upheld a district court’s dismissal of a citizen suit to enforce…
‘Waters of the United States’ – Different State, Different Definitions
Ali Nelson, Senior Counsel, was featured in Rock Products October edition discussing the litigation surrounding the regulatory definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ and the recent court decisions leading to the application of different definitions in different states.
U.S. Supreme Court Sends Waters of the US Rule to District Courts; Nationwide Stay in Question
On January 22, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that challenges to the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (the “WOTUS Rule” or “Rule”) belong in district court rather than the appellate court. The WOTUS Rule was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) to clarify which waters and wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction. Numerous parties challenged the Rule in both federal district courts and circuit courts of appeals. The circuit court actions were consolidated in the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 2016, the Sixth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to hear petitions related to the legality of the Rule and issued a nationwide stay. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court by industry groups who argued that, under the plain text of the Clean Water Act, the district courts were the proper jurisdiction.
In an opinion authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court noted that the Clean Water Act lists seven specific categories of EPA actions that federal courts of appeals have the exclusive power to review and the Rule did not fall into a category on the list. The Court determined that it had “no basis to depart from the [Clean Water Act]’s plain language” despite arguments by the U.S. government (forwarded by both the Obama and Trump Administrations) that the Rule was “functionally related” to categories on the list and that efficiency, national uniformity, and other policy arguments weighed in favor of making the circuit courts of appeals the appropriate jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit, directing the court to dismiss the petitions for review that had been filed.
Because the Supreme Court’s decision was related to jurisdiction and not the merits of the Rule, what does this mean for the Rule’s future?…
Wisconsin Indian Tribe Sues Federal Government to Get Involved in Permitting of Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) over the proposed Aquila Resources Back Forty Mine, arguing that EPA and Corps have failed to take responsibility for reviewing wetland permits for the project. The lawsuit was expected since the Tribe filed a notice…
The Shifting Landscape For Coal Ash
The month of August, 2017 has seen three distinct developments that may significantly impact management of “Coal Combustion Residuals,” or “CCR,” which include bottom ash, fly ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization materials generated from burning coal at steam‑powered electricity plants. Although one of these developments may provide a degree of regulatory relief, the other two may preserve or even strengthen existing regulatory requirements.…