In Part 1 of our Clean Water Act (CWA) Series, we reported on the circuit split between the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals regarding whether indirect discharges to Waters of the United States (WOTUS) through groundwater required a CWA permit. On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments regarding “Whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater.” Read more about this case history and the legal arguments on the Emerging Energy Insights blog.
Under the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA or the Act) expressly forbids the discharge of pollutants without a permit. The term “discharge of pollutants” means the “addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.” Any discharge of pollutants must be covered under a federal or state discharge permit (e.g., a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the discharge of dredged and fill material or a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the discharge of other pollutants); otherwise the discharge would be in violation of the CWA. If it does not constitute a discharge of pollutants, then the release does not violate the CWA.
A flurry of recent cases around the United States has created a circuit split over whether the CWA governs discharges to groundwater that eventually add pollutants to navigable waters. However, there are a few points these courts seem to agree on. Continue Reading CWA Series: Do Discharges to Groundwater Require a Permit? Depends on Who You Ask
Since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, there has been extensive debate over which waters may be regulated as “waters of the United States” under the Act. Over the years, various federal courts have reached differing conclusions on the question of whether discharges to groundwater can be considered discharges to waters of the United States. This issue recently came to a head in a 9th Circuit opinion. In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting comments on whether pollutant discharges from point sources that reach jurisdictional surface waters via groundwater or other subsurface flow with a direct hydrologic connection to the jurisdictional surface water may be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. For farmers, manufacturers and anyone who conducts activities that release pollutants to groundwater, these actions will be affected by whether and how EPA clarifies its position regarding whether these discharges are subject to regulation. Read the full blog post from our Environmental attorneys on this issue at Husch Blackwell’s Emerging Energy Insights blog.
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.