By Max E. Bridges
Last week, the United States Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is the proper venue for challenges to the “Clean Water Rule.” As previously detailed on this blog, the Clean Water Rule was promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to clarify and expand the reach of the Clean Water Act which is controlled by the phrase “waters of the United States.” At least 30 states and multiple industry groups challenged the rule in federal courts across the country. In February 2016, the Sixth Circuit ruled that it, not the federal district courts, has jurisdiction to decide challenges to the rule. That appeals court ruling led to the consolidation of more than 100 challenges in the Sixth Circuit.
The United States Supreme Court will now decide whether the Sixth Circuit erred when it held that it had jurisdiction to review challenges to the Clean Water Rule. Note, the Supreme Court will not decide the merits or validity of the rule at this time. A decision in this case is expected by July of this year.
Max Bridges, Associate in the Firm’s Natural Resources & Environmental Service Team, wrote an article that was published in the fall edition of the Kentucky Rural Water Association‘s Waterproof Magazine. The article, “EPA’s Muddy ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Rule,” describes the history of the Clean Water Act with regard to the “waters of the United States,” and explains how certain aspects of the Clean Water Rule have yet to be clarified.
Please click here to read the full article.
By Max E. Bridges
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit concluded that it has jurisdiction to review challenges to the “Clean Water Rule.” As previously detailed on this blog, the Clean Water Rule was promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to clarify and expand the reach of the Clean Water Act which is controlled by the phrase “waters of the United States.” But there has been intense opposition to the rule and it is now subject to more than 20 separate challenges filed by numerous states and interest groups. A number of these challenges were consolidated in the Sixth Circuit and in October, the Sixth Circuit stayed the rule nationwide, concluding that the challengers demonstrated a “substantial possibility of success.”
In yesterday’s decision, the Sixth Circuit panel concluded that it has jurisdiction to hear the consolidated challenges to the Clean Water Rule under Sixth Circuit precedent and 33 U.S.C. § 1369(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act. Unless the EPA or the Army Corps can obtain a hearing on this jurisdiction question before all of the Judges of the Sixth Circuit and/or it’s reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and in either case, have the decision overturned, the Sixth Circuit will be the first court to decide the validity of the Clean Water Rule.
By Max E. Bridges
Late Thursday, a federal judge in North Dakota blocked the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, set to go into effect today, that would expand federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erikson of North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction finding that the 13 states suing to block the rule are likely to succeed on their claim because “(1) it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule, and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act requirements when promulgating the Rule.” Judge Erikson found that the states have demonstrated irreparable harm because the “States will lose their sovereignty Continue reading Federal Judge Blocks Clean Water Rule in 13 States
By Max E. Bridges
On May 27, the EPA finalized the “Clean Water Rule” which defines the scope of waters protected by the Clean Water Act. The rule is intended to clarify and implement Supreme Court decisions interpreting the reach of Clean Water Act provisions controlled by the phrase “waters of the United States.”
Those decisions have produced considerable confusion over what waters the EPA and the Corps of Engineers can regulate. The final rule gives the federal government an expansive jurisdiction, but is less ambiguous than the proposed rule because it relies more on distances and less on imprecise terms and descriptions. The New York Times estimates the rule will apply to about 60% of the nation’s waters.
The Clean Water Rule identifies seven different categories of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”): traditional navigable waters, all interstate waters (including interstate wetlands), the territorial seas, impoundments, tributaries, adjacent waters, and on a case-by-case basis, waters with a significant nexus to downstream waters. The last three categories are the most controversial and will be discussed in greater detail.
The EPA defines a ‘tributary’ as a water that contributes flow to a WOTUS and is characterized by three physical indicators: a bed, bank and ordinary high water mark. But there’s some ambiguity in how Continue reading EPA Finalizes Waters of the United States Rule