Tag Archives: Waters of the United States

How Much Does Trump Even Care About Deregulation?

On Thursday, the Trump Administration’s “Suspension Rule,” which delayed implementation of the Obama Waters of the United States Rule for two years was struck down.  Judge David Norton of the District of South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction against the rule.

It’s important to note that the case was not about the merits of the WOTUS rule.  It was simply about the Trump administration’s failure to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act in promulgating the Suspension Rule.… More

WOTUS: Legal Issue or Scientific Issue?

Last week, EPA and the Army Corps issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in support of their efforts to get rid of the Obama WOTUS rule.  It’s a shrewd but cynical document.  It’s shrewd, because it fairly effectively shifts the focus from the scientific question to the legal question.  Instead of asking what waters must be regulated to ensure that waters of the United States are protected,… More

WOTUS, SCHMOTUS. Can the Corps Reach a Reasoned Jurisdictional Determination In Less Than 12 Years?

The debate over the definition of “Waters of the United States” goes on and on.  I tend to think that Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test was a reasonable approach to making sense of a vague statute.  I also think that the Obama administration definitional rule was supported by good science.

What we sometimes lose track of in the ongoing debate is that the definition – whatever we choose – matters,… More

The 9th Circuit Weighs In — Discharges to Groundwater Are Subject to the Clean Water Act

As I’ve previously discussed, whether a discharge to groundwater may be subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction is currently in dispute.  Now the 9th Circuit has weighed in, finding that point discharges to groundwater are subject to the Clean Water Act, so long as an ultimate discharge of pollutants to surface waters of the United States is “fairly traceable” to the discharge to groundwater. … More

Significant Nexus Lives! (For Now, In the 9th Circuit)

On Monday, the 9th Circuit affirmed the conviction of a Joseph Robertson, Montana man who:

discharged dredged and fill material into the surrounding wetlands and an adjacent tributary, which flows to Cataract Creek. Cataract Creek is a tributary of the Boulder River, which in turn is a tributary of the Jefferson River—a traditionally navigable water of the United States.

This somewhat attenuated connection to a “traditionally navigable water” put the case in the crosshairs of those seeking to narrow the definition of “Waters of the United States.”  Robertson appealed on two grounds relevant to this larger debate. … More

Meet the New WOTUS. Same as the Old WOTUS.

Earlier this week, EPA and the ACOE began implementing the Trump administration’s efforts to deconstruct the Obama rule defining “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.  EPA and the ACOE submitted for Federal Register publication a proposed rule that would temporarily restore the WOTUS definition that existed prior to the promulgation of the Obama rule in 2015, while they go about drafting a narrower definition.… More

The Executive Order on the WOTUS Rule: Will It Really Reduce Regulatory Uncertainty?

On Tuesday, President Trump issued another executive order on the environment, this time directing EPA to revisit the EPA rule defining Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.  It’s a curious order, for a number of reasons.

First, Section 1 of the EO states as “Policy” that “minimizing regulatory uncertainty” is in the national interest.  Well, the purpose of the WOTUS rule was pretty much to reduce the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the definition of WOTUS. … More

What Is a Water of the United States? EPA and the Corps Make It Easier To Know What They Think

While the litigation over the WOTUS rule wends its tortuous way through the courts, EPA and the Corps have not been idle.  Earlier this month, they jointly issued a memorandum on their plans for improving the permitting process.  Among other measures, they have reemphasized their commitment to transparency, by making all jurisdictional determinations available on a single web site.  The web site is now up and running and includes all JDs issued beginning in September.… More

When Is A Discharge to Groundwater a Discharge to a Water of the United States?

The Clean Water Act regulates discharges of pollutants to waters of the United States.  That term is not understood to include groundwater.  The Sierra Club was unhappy about alleged discharges to groundwater from coal ash disposal facilities at the Chesapeake Energy Center power plant.  chesapeake-energy-center-aerial-highres-RESIZEDThe plant had a solid waste permit for the disposal facilities under Virginia law and, one can at least infer, was in compliance with the solid waste permit.… More

The Sixth Circuit Stays the Waters of the United States Rule: Just a Plain Vanilla Preliminary Injunction — Not!

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay against implementation of the “Waters of the United States” rule.  The case is so weird, alice in wonderlandin so many ways, that I don’t even think I can count them.  Here are a few.

  • The Court stayed the case, even though, as the dissent pointed out, there is question whether it even has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.…
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Two Days, Three Decisions, One Big Mess: Welcome to Judicial Review of the Waters of the United States Rule

On Wednesday, Judge Irene Keeley of the Northern District of West Virginia held that district courts do not have jurisdiction to hear challenges to EPA’s rule defining waters of the United States, because courts of appeal have original jurisdiction over “any effluent limitation or other limitation.”  Yesterday, Judge Lisa Wood of the Southern District of Georgia agreed.

Later yesterday, Judge Ralph Erickson of the District of North Dakota disagreed. … More

EPA Hubris, July 2015 Edition

Anyone who reads this blog must have seen the explosion of reports in the trade press that EPA ignored significant criticism from the Army Corps of Engineers in promulgating its Waters of the United States rule.  I have not seen the memoranda, but, based on the press reports, it appears that EPA ignored criticism both that it was too stringent in some areas and that it was not sufficiently stringent in others.  … More

It’s All Connected: EPA Finally Determines that the Science Supports an Expansive Definition of Waters of the United States

On Thursday, EPA issued its final report on Connectivity of Streams & Wetlands to Downstream Waters:  A Review & Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence.  The Connectivity report is intended to support EPA’s rule clarifying the definition of waters of the United StatesCorps_Regulatory_Jurisdiction.  I know that groups on all sides will be providing their two cents, but of this I am sure enough to abandon my usual reluctance to speculate:  This report will be more than sufficient to insulate EPA’s final rule from judicial challenge. … More