Biden Administration Publishes Final Rule Redefining “Waters of the United States”
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.
D.C. Circuit Finds That California Agency Did Not Waive Clean Water Act Authority for Hydroelectric Power Plan Permitting
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…)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Proposes Updates to State Certification Process Under Clean Water Act Section 401
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…)
Supreme Court Lifts Stay of Trump-Era Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule
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…)
House Introduces PFAS Action Act of 2021
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…)
Trump Navigable Waters Protection Rule Revived in Colorado by the Tenth Circuit
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…)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Finalizes 16 Nationwide Permits
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.
Environmental Protection Agency Issues Interim Strategy Memorandum to Address PFAS in Federally Issued Water Permits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water has published a new interim strategy memorandum for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA. The memorandum includes recommendations generated by a cross-agency workgroup, which conducted a review of existing Clean Water Act (CWA) section 402 NPDES permitting authorities to determine where and how currently unregulated contaminants like PFAS may fit into the permitting process. Under the CWA, the NPDES permit program regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Currently, there are no CWA water quality criteria or effluent guidelines for PFAS, an umbrella category of thousands of synthetic chemicals historically used in industrial manufacturing processes for their flame-resistant and nonstick properties.
Sierra Club and Others Challenge EPA Coal Ash Rule
On November 2, 2020, several environmental interest groups including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed suits in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and D.C. circuits challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule (SERR), which rolled back certain Obama-era effluent discharge limitations on coal-fired power plants. (more…)
EPA Issues Final Power Plant Wastewater Rule
On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule addressing effluent concentration limits for certain metals in power plant wastewater under the Clean Water Act. The Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule (SERR) changes several aspects of the coal-fired power plant effluent limitations included in the 2015 Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards rule, including the limits for two waste streams: flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water. (more…)