The Supreme Court has declined to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s January 2017 decision in Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Inc. et al. v. U.S. EPA reinstating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (the “EPA”) Water Transfers Rule, meaning the Second Circuit’s decision reinstating the Rule will stand. The Water Transfer Rule, issued by EPA in 2008, formalized EPA’s historic practice of excluding water transfers between water basins from the Clean Water Act’s (“CWA”) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting requirements after years of legal battles over EPA’s informal policies regarding interbasin transfers.
On February 1, 2018, the Ninth Circuit published Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, which applied Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting requirements to well wastewater injections that migrate to the Pacific Ocean through groundwater.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that federal district courts, rather than appellate courts, are the proper venue to challenge the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) Rule (discussed in a previous blog post here), an Obama-era regulation that expansively defined waters subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Following the Supreme Court decision, the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday vacated its 2015 decision which held the opposite. In doing so, it also remanded a challenge to the WOTUS Rule brought by a coalition of states (led by Georgia) in 2015 in the federal district court in Brunswick, Georgia.
Today, in a much-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court unanimously held that district courts are the proper courts to hear challenges to the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) Rule, an Obama-era regulation that expansively defined waters subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The decision overturns a Sixth Circuit ruling that federal appeals courts maintain the proper jurisdiction to hear such challenges. Writing for the Court, Justice Sotomayor found that “Congress has made clear that rules like the WOTUS Rule must be reviewed first in federal district courts.”
EPA has released “EJ 2020 Action Agenda,” its action plan for addressing environmental justice (“EJ”) for 2016 through 2020. The Agenda builds on the foundation established in its last EJ strategic plan, Plan EJ 2014, which laid the groundwork of EJ practices with guidance and tools to integrate EJ in EPA’s programs and policies. The Agenda is framed by three overarching goals with priority areas and examples of key actions for each goal, as well as measures to evaluate progress.
EPA defines “environmental justice” as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” On June 7, 2016, EPA released its final version of the Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance). EPA previously released a draft version of this guidance on May 9, 2013. The new guidance complements EPA’s Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of Regulatory Actions, issued in May 2015, which provides direction on when EJ should be considered during the development of a “regulatory action,” and begins to address the issue of how to do so in an analytical fashion. A “regulatory action” is “any substantive action by an agency (normally published in the Federal Register) that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and notices of proposed rulemaking.” Continue Reading EPA Releases Final Environmental Justice Technical Guidance