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Showing 38 posts in Water.

This Post was authored by Lisa Maeyer, a MGKF summer associate. 

On June 8, 2020, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a trial court’s holding that flooding from sewage overflows not resulting from intentional activity on the part of a sanitary authority did not constitute a de facto taking of a landowner’s affected property. In the Matter of: Condemnation by the Franklin Twp. Sewage Auth., No. 1237 C.D. 2019, 2020 WL 3039070 (Pa. Cmwlth. June 8, 2020). In particular, the Court held that because the sewage overflows resulted from the age of the system and infiltration and inflows not caused by any actions of the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority (the “Authority”), the lower court properly sustained preliminary objections to Plaintiff William Ott’s petition seeking compensation for a de facto taking of his property. Read More »

Today, the Supreme Court altered Clean Water Act jurisprudence when it vacated and remanded a closely-watched Ninth Circuit decision which pertained to the federal government’s authority to oversee of the migration of pollution through groundwater to navigable waters. See County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al., No. 18-260, 590 U.S. ____ (Apr. 23, 2020). In writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Breyer presented the central issue of the litigation as “whether the [Clean Water] Act ‘requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source,’ here, ‘groundwater.’” Id. at 1 (internal citations omitted). The Court held that a permit issued under the Clean Water Act is required “if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” Id. Because the “functional equivalent” standard is slightly amorphous, the Court introduced several factors to aid courts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the regulated community in making permitting determinations. See Breyer Factors, below. Read More »

Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), a TMDL establishes the maximum amount of each pollutant that an impaired water segment can receive while still meeting identified water quality standards. After EPA receives a proposed TMDL from the state, it has a non-discretionary duty to either “approve or disapprove” the TMDL. See 33 U.S.C. § 1313(d)(2). If EPA approves the TMDL, it becomes effective. If EPA disapproves the TMDL, it must produce and issue its own TMDL within thirty days. Just before the close of 2019, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court for the Western District of Washington to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a temperature total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Columbia Riverkeeper v. Wheeler, No. 18-35982 (9th Cir., Dec. 20, 2019). At issue in the litigation was whether the “constructive submission doctrine” applied when Washington and Oregon failed to submit required temperature TMDLs and whether that failure triggered a non-discretionary duty for EPA to issue the TMDL itself. Read More »

Last week the Supreme Court of Montana held that there is no implied private right of action for judicial enforcement under the Montana Water Use Act (Act).  In Lyman Creek, LLC v. City of Bozeman, DA 19-0112 (Mont. 2019), the Court determined that the Act reserves the right of enforcement only for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the attorney general, and the county attorneys. Read More »

On April 9, 2019, Judge John Z. Lee of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division denied the City of Evanston’s motion for a preliminary injunction against two utility companies in a RCRA action that sought to compel the utility companies to investigate and remediate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the area.  After a lengthy evidentiary hearing spanning eight days, Judge Lee found that the city had failed to meet its overall burden of proving likelihood of success on the merits, in part because he believed one of the city’s main theories of contamination to be “simplistic.”  (Memorandum Opinion and Order, at *4, City of Evanston v. Northern Illinois Gas Company, No. 16 C 5692 at *19 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2019)). And on May 16, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a similar decision in Varlen Corporation v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, No. 17-3212 (7th Cir. May 16, 2019), excluding an expert witness and granting summary judgment to the defendant because the expert's testimony regarding the cause of contamination was found to be unreliable, having failed to meet the Daubert standard. Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the MDL court in In re Gold King Mine Release denied response contractors’ motions to dismiss. No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 1282997 (D. N.M. March 20, 2019) (slip opn.). The 2015 Gold King Mine release sent over three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. In the wake of the spill, the State of New Mexico, the State of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and multiple individual plaintiffs filed suit against the mine’s owner, the federal government, EPA, and EPA response contractors, Weston Solutions, Inc. and Environmental Restoration, LLCC (the “Response Contractors”). The court’s opinion, which allows the majority of plaintiffs’ CERCLA and tort claims to move forward, comes on the heels of a similar order denying the Federal Government’s motions to dismiss. See In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). Our blog post discussing that earlier opinion and order can be found here.    Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico denied the federal government’s motions to dismiss claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). The district court was not convinced by the government’s argument that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the plaintiffs’ complaints were inadequate. It denied the motions and allowed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to discovery. Read More »

Last month in the case Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. APM Terminals Tacoma, LLC, et al., No. C17-5016 BHS (W.D. Wa. Jan. 31, 2019), the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed Plaintiff Puget Soundkeeper Alliance’s (“Soundkeeper”) Clean Water Act citizen suit against SSA Terminals, LLC (“SSA”) for failing to satisfy the CWA’s pre-suit notice requirements. The case addressed the novel question of whether the Soundkeeper’s “anticipatory” pre-suit notice letter to SSA, who was served with the letter before it had even taken over operations at the property in question, satisfied the CWA’s 60-day pre-suit notice requirement. The court rejected Soundkeeper’s novel theory and dismissed the CWA claim against SSA. Read More »

On January 15, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment in Arconic, Inc., et al. v. APC Inv. Co., Case No. CV-14-6456-GW (C.D. Cal. Jan. 15, 2019), ruling that Plaintiffs’ contribution claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Section 113(g)(3) were barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations. What makes the decision noteworthy is that the Court found that the limitations period began to run ten years before the Plaintiffs entered into the Consent Decree with EPA and the State of California to undertake the remediation giving rise to the contribution claim. Read More »

Last week, the Central District of Illinois dismissed a case wherein an environmental group sought to extend liability to a corporation based on a groundwater connection to the Middle Fork River under the Clean Water Act (the “CWA”). Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC, 18-cv-02148 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 2018). In so doing, the court held that it was bound by the Seventh Circuit’s 1994 decision in Village of Oconomocow Lake v. Dayton Hudson Corp., 24 F.3d 962 (7th Cir. 1994) wherein the Circuit court had held that discharges into groundwater were not regulated under the CWA. The district court’s decision is in line with the Sixth Circuit’s recent decisions in Kentucky Waterways All. v. Kentucky Utilities Co., No. 18-5115, 2018 WL 4559315, (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018) and Tennessee Clean Water Network v. Tennessee Valley Auth., No. 17-6155, 2018 WL 4559103 (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018), discussed by this blog here and in contrast to the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Upstate Forever et al. v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP et al., No. 17-1640, 2018 WL 1748154 (4th Cir. April 12, 2018), discussed by this blog here. Read More »