EPA and the Corps of Engineers have finalized their latest iteration of the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ It is seemingly straightforward, consisting only of a list of jurisdictional waters, exclusions, and internal definitions. Although the agencies claim that the new definition “provides clear rules of the road” regarding the scope of jurisdiction, the agencies incorporate prior expansive jurisdictional principles into the rule.
The history of the regulatory definition of WOTUS is one of ever-increasing regulation of the nation’s waters. The original definition was relatively narrow, generally including traditional navigable waters (TNW). That definition was struck down by a federal district court, who held that the Congress intended to regulate more than TNW in enacting the Clean Water Act. Since then, and even though the statutory definition in the Clean Water Act has not changed, the agencies have embarked on a decades-long effort to increase the scope of jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2006 Rapanos case only served to fuel the regulatory expansion of jurisdiction. Justice Scalia enunciated a narrow view of the scope of jurisdiction, generally limiting jurisdiction to TNWs, relatively permanent tributaries, and truly adjacent wetlands. Justice Kennedy, in his concurring opinion, generally included additional waters and wetlands that had a “significant nexus” to TNWs. After Rapanos, the agencies issued a guidance document (the Rapanos Guidance) which incorporated both views. Not surprisingly, the Rapanos Guidance includes a rather expansive view of what constitutes a ‘significant nexus.’
Continue reading “Same Old WOTUS” →
Over thirty years after the requirement was first included in the Clean Water Act and after a suit was filed to force EPA to act, EPA has published a proposed rule relating to planning for worst-case discharges of hazardous substances. The comment period is open to May 27, 2022.
The Clean Water Act was amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. As part of that amendment, a provision was added requiring the issuance of regulations mandating that certain facilities prepare and submit a plan “for responding, to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst case discharge, and to a substantial threat of such a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance.” CWA Section 311(j)(5); 33 USCA 1321(j)(5). Of course, both the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard have promulgated various regulatory requirements relating to discharges of oil, such as those in 40 CFR Part 112, as well as some requirements relating to hazardous substances. However, according to EPA, no single program covered all the requirements of CWA Section 311(j)(5).
Continue reading “Hazardous Substance Response Plans Are Coming” →
On January 22, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling in National Association of Manufacturers v. the Department of Defense, et al., No. 16-299. The decision resolves the issue of the proper court for judicial review of the Clean Water Rule (Rule) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps of Engineers (Corps).
This article will provide some background about the Rule and legal challenges, information about the Supreme Court’s ruling, and highlight some of the uncertainties created in the wake of the decision. Continue reading “Clean Water Rule Jurisdiction Resolved in National Association of Manufacturers v. the Department of Defense But Uncertainty Prevails” →