In the latest edition of Rock Products, Daniel Fanning discussed the Trump administration’s second in a two-step act to un-muddy the waters with a new rule defining the scope and reach of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). This act reversed the course set by the Obama administration in 2015, a rule that lent

As discussed in prior blog posts, the Federal Circuits became split (Part 1) in 2018 on whether the Clean Water Act (“CWA” or the “Act”) regulates discharges of pollutants from point sources that reach navigable waters through nonpoint sources, such as groundwater. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in one of those Circuit decisions (Part 2), and the case is still in front of the Supreme Court. While U.S. EPA had requested comments on this and other issues (Part 3), the agency’s current position was unknown until recently. On April 15, 2019, EPA released an interpretive statement and corresponding press release providing new guidance on whether the CWA permitting requirements apply to discharges directly to groundwater (78 Fed. Reg. 16810 (April 23, 2019)).

Continue Reading CWA Series: Do Discharges to Groundwater Require a Permit? EPA just changed its mind.

The Trump administration announced in December 2018 its proposed replacement rule defining “waters of the United States.” Under the proposed rule, the number of wetlands that fall outside of federal jurisdiction is expected to increase.

Phillip Bower and Megan McLean weigh in on what this means for state regulation of non-federal wetlands in the recent

Previously, we reported the Federal Circuit split (Part 1) regarding indirect discharges to navigable waters through groundwater and the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in one of those cases (Part 2), which will hopefully settle whether the Clean Water Act (“CWA” or the “Act”) governs an indirect discharge to navigable waters. Whether the CWA applies to particular surface waters remains a hot topic almost 50 years since the modern-day CWA was passed in 1972, as the litigation continues over the Obama Administration’s rule (promulgated in 2015) defining the scope of the CWA, as well as the Trump Administration’s attempts to repeal that rule.  
Continue Reading CWA Series: In redefining the scope of the Clean Water Act, will the new WOTUS rule truly be a sea change?

Rock Products magazine recently published an article by Daniel Fanning discussing a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” and its potential effects. The rule is intended “to increase CWA program predictability and consistency.” Will this change impact your operations?

Continue Reading What Are ‘Waters of the United States’?

Under the CWA, the discharge of pollutants, meaning the “addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source,” without a permit is prohibited. Previously, we reported on the circuit split (Part 1) between the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals regarding whether indirect discharges to WOTUS through groundwater required a CWA permit.
Continue Reading CWA Series: SCOTUS Agrees to Grant Certiorari on Indirect Discharge Question

Husch Blackwell’s Daniel Fanning and Coty Hopinks-Baul provide interesting insights in the latest post from the CWA Series on whether or not a permit is required for discharges to groundwater under the Clean Water Act.
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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?
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Sends Waters of the US Rule to District Courts; Nationwide Stay in Question

The U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed to delay the effective date of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule which clarifies which waters and wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction. According to the agencies, the delay is necessary to help avoid confusion among home builders, contractors, and miners.

The 2015 WOTUS rule has an effective date of August 28, 2015, but
Continue Reading EPA and Army Corp Propose to Delay Effective Date of WOTUS Rule