The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), on August 29, 2023, issued a direct final rule amending the scope of “Waters of the United States” as defined in Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations. The final rule implements the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sackett v. EPA, in which the Court held that only wetlands adjacent to Waters of the U.S. with a continuous surface connection to relatively permanent waters adjoining interstate navigable waters are to be regulated as jurisdictional waters.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina finding that shrimping trawlers that disturb ocean floor sediment and discard other fish and marine organisms, or “bycatch,” after extracting shrimp from their nets are not discharging a pollutant under the Clean Water Act (Act). In so doing, the court made clear that neither discarding bycatch nor kicking up sediment already on the ocean floor constitutes the discharge of a pollutant or dredge or fill material that would otherwise require a permit by the Act.
On March 19, 2023, in Texas et al. v. EPA, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an order enjoining the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule in the states of Idaho and Texas. The injunction went into effect just one day before the WOTUS Rule was set to become final. Texas represents the latest in the multidecade saga of seeking to define the term “waters of the United States” in the context of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Moreover, Texas is just one hurdle EPA’s new WOTUS Rule faces, with a pending Supreme Court case (Sackett v. EPA) and potential congressional action to block the rule both on the horizon.
On January 18, 2023, the Biden administration published its Final Rule revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Wetlands and waterways that meet the definition of WOTUS are protected by the CWA and subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction. However, the term is not defined in the statute. As such, the federal agencies’ interpretation of WOTUS determines which waters are subject to the CWA permitting requirements.
On Friday, June 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) upheld a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Turlock Irrigation District et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission et al. ruling that the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) did not waive its authority to issue permits in connection with FERC’s licensing of the Don Pedro and La Grange hydroelectric plants (the Projects) in central California under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. (more…)
A recently proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks to expand the powers of states and tribes in approving or denying projects that require Clean Water Act (CWA) authorization. On June 9, 2022, EPA published for public comment its proposed Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Improvement Rule, which would significantly alter a Trump-era rule regarding the grounds on which state and tribal certifying agencies may impose conditions on, or outright block, projects that receive federal authorization. (more…)
On Wednesday, April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed an order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacating and remanding a 2020 rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) narrowing the ability of states and tribes to block infrastructure projects that discharge into waters of the United States under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. (more…)
On Tuesday, April 13, Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton, both D-Mich., introduced the PFAS Action Act of 2021, seeking further regulation of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS). Most notably, the bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to address two PFAS chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — through a number of regulatory provisions: designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and requiring EPA to establish national drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS. (more…)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has vacated a stay of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) in Colorado, reversing the one court that had stayed the Trump administration’s rule redefining the meaning of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. (more…)
On January 5, 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released a prepublication version of its final rule reissuing and modifying 12 existing Nationwide Permits (NWPs) and issuing four new NWPs. NWPs authorize activities under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 when those activities will result in “minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” In addition to finalizing 16 NWPs, the rule also changed general conditions and definitions associated with those NWPs. Through this action, the Corps did not reissue or modify the remaining 40 existing NWPs, which will remain in effect until March 18, 2022.