On March 23, the Second Circuit issued its opinion in N.Y. Dep’t of Enviro. Conservation v. FERC, Case No. 19-1610 (i.e., the “Empire Pipeline” case). The case concerns the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC or Commission) determination that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) waived its water quality certification authority with regard to FERC’s issuance of a gas pipeline certificate when NYSDEC sought to extend its review period beyond the one-year deadline under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA or Act) by agreeing with the applicant to “post-date” the filing date of its water quality certification application by several weeks.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Enforces the Clean Water Act Section 401 One-Year Time Limit

On December 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its annual civil monetary penalty adjustments in the Federal Register. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts. The annual inflation adjustments are based on a cost-of-living multiplier determined by changes to the Consumer Price Index. This year’s inflation multiplier is 1.01182.

Continue Reading EPA Publishes Annual Inflation Adjustments to Civil Penalty Amounts

On December 8, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) issued draft guidance to clarify the application of the “functional equivalent” test created by the United States Supreme Court in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020). The guidance is intended to help both members of the regulated community and permitting authorities determine when a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit may be required for discharges from point sources that reach navigable waters through groundwater. Comments on the draft guidance are due 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Continue Reading EPA Seeks to Clarify Application of Maui and “Functional Equivalent” Test

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated fiscal concerns of water and sewer service providers, with many states imposing a moratorium on the collection of delinquent bills and the termination of service. The affordability of water and sewer service has also been a central topic in environmental justice discussions. In the midst of this heightened interest, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its long-awaited proposed updates to its Clean Water Act (“CWA”) affordability guidance. The pre-publication version of its 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for CWA Obligations (“2020 FCA”) was released on September 15, 2020. The proposal builds on EPA’s prior guidance, issued in 1997, as well as its 2014 Financial Capability Assessment Framework.  The purpose of the guidance is to establish criteria for EPA consideration of the impact of water quality, stormwater, and drinking water requirements on affordability. This information can then be used to prioritize different regulatory requirements and establish longer compliance schedules in permits and enforcement actions.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Long-Awaited Update to CWA Financial Capability Assessment

Citing delegated States as the primary enforcers of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the promotion of federalism, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) Jeffrey Bossert Clark recently issued a memorandum promoting the use of enforcement discretion for certain civil CWA matters where a state

In the past two weeks, two federal district courts reached seemingly opposite conclusions regarding the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (“the Agencies”) Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“the Rule”). The Rule, which took effect on June 22, narrows the term “waters of the United States” and,

Under the Clean Water Act, stormwater is considered a nonpoint source. Accordingly, benchmark standards and best management practices have been used to manage stormwater discharges. At least in California, that all changes on July 1, 2020, as amendments to California’s Statewide General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities (“Industrial General Permit” or

On June 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule clarifying substantive authorities and procedural requirements for water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA’s August 2019 notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) (summarized in our previous post) articulated the Agency’s first-ever statutory interpretation of section 401 since its enactment nearly 50 years ago, and proposed sweeping substantive and procedural changes to its section 401 regulations in conformance with its interpretation. EPA’s final rule largely adopts the regulations in its NOPR, but makes important changes in adopting new regulations that preserve authority of states and Native American tribes exercising “Treatment as a State” (TAS) authorization to ensure that discharges from federally licensed and permitted activities meet state and tribal water quality requirements.
Continue Reading Long-Awaited EPA Rule Overhauls Section 401 of Clean Water Act

Amid the ongoing public health pandemic, EPA has issued two fact sheets suggesting it may conclude that a federal drinking water standard for perchlorate is not warranted. In a June 2019 blog post we reported that EPA asked the public whether it should set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for perchlorate. Setting an MCL for

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, addressing whether the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater. The issue has historically been controversial and