Despite an ongoing algae-pollution problem in the western Ohio portion of Lake Erie, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that environmental groups have not established a Clean Water Act violation on the part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Read more
The Sixth Circuit ruled Monday that utilities in Tennessee and Kentucky did not violated the Clean Water Act when contaminents in coal ash ponds at their facilities leached in the local groundwater.Read more
A 10th Circuit panel on Monday heard arguments on whether the Army Corps of Engineers incorrectly applied Clean Water Act standards only to mitigating environmental damages rather than to the entirety of a project to expand a Colorado reservoir.Read more
RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Fourth Circuit held Wednesday that an arsenic leak from a Virginia coal ash pond is not a violation of the Clean Water Act, The ruling is a blow to environmentalists who are currently arguing otherwise around the country.
In a 24-page opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer, a Reagan appointee, was unmoved by the plaintiff Sierra Club’s argument that ponds containing toxic discharge from coal-fired power plants were seeping dangerous chemicals into groundwater in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, claimed Dominion Virginia Power had allowed rainwater to seep into and ultimately through coal ash ponds linked to a Chesapeake Bay-area power plant, and that arsenic was carried into the groundwater around the facility, and , eventually, into oceans, rivers in streams.
The Clean Water Act only allows the government to punish entities who dump without a permit into “navigable” waters. For years environmental groups have tried to link coal ash ponds to navigable water sources, however Niemeyer, in line with judges before him, adopted a literal interpretation of the federal law and found otherwise.
Neimeyer said the law requires violating water sources to be a “discrete conveyance” which includes “any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft.”
“Here, the arsenic was found to have leached from static accumulations of coal ash on the initiative of rainwater or groundwater, thereby polluting the groundwater and ultimately navigable waters,” Neimeyer wrote. “In this context, the landfill and ponds were not created to convey anything and did not function in that manner; they certainly were not discrete conveyances.”
In a statement, lawyers for the Southern Environmental Law center said they were disappointed with the court’s decision and warned of the continued threat posed by the existing ash ponds.
“Of the 3.4 million tons of coal ash at the site, 2.1 million tons of coal ash is sitting in unlined lagoons, with the ash in some areas extending six feet below sea level,” the group said. “Any closure proposal for this facility should ensure that arsenic is no longer dumped in the river, and take into account the vulnerability of the site to storm surges, hurricanes, and daily tidal erosion in order to protect the citizens of Chesapeake.”
The group, and its clients at the Sierra Club, however, found a silver lining in the decision in the court’s linking the presence of arsenic in the ground water with the ponds.
“Arsenic is in the water and Dominion put it there,” said Nachy Kanfer, acting eastern regional director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “But the court found we could not bring an enforcement under the Clean Water Act to address that pollution.”
Kanfer pointed to similar suits aiming to consider coal ash ponds point sources that were heard in Kentucky and Tennessee and have worked their way into higher courts in those regions. He said he attended 6th Circuit hearings in those cases and the judges seemed interested in understanding the matter.
“This decision is not the last word on the matter,” he said.Read more
For over two decades, Oregon has regulated thermal pollution in rivers and streams using illegal standards. But at a hearing Tuesday, the federal and state governments said it will take another 12 years to come up with revised standards to protect threatened and endangered fish.Read more
A first-of-its-kind lawsuit by southern California cities and the San Diego Unified Port District over polluted waterways at the U.S.-Mexico border survived dismissal Wednesday when a federal judge found the agencies have standing to bring claims for Clean Water Act violations.Read more
Ruling against the Trump White House on Thursday, a federal judge in South Carolina reinstated Obama administration Clean Water Act regulations in 26 states.Read more
Two clean water cases involving coal-fired power plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, and their impact on the surrounding environment, were argued before the Sixth Circuit on Thursday.Read more
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The Fourth Circuit on Wednesday held that a lower court erred when it ruled the Environmental Protection Agency was not doing enough to ensure West Virginia fulfills its obligations to assess and report the toxic contamination of its waters.Read more
Following the lead of Southern California cities distressed at sewage spills along the border, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday gave notice he intends to sue the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission for violating the Clean Water Act.Read more
A Senate panel on Wednesday debated whether it should do away with 30-year-old groundwater standards, and what role states should play going forward in regulating contamination.Read more
The Fourth Circuit on Thursday said environmentalists can continue to press claims that a ruptured gas line, since repaired, is an ongoing violation of the Clean Water Act because a plume from the spill continues to pollute navigable waters of the United States.Read more
Southern California cities, tired of their beaches and waterways being polluted by sewage entering U.S. waters from Tijuana, Mexico, sued the international agency tasked with upholding the Clean Water Act on Friday.Read more
The federal judge who granted environmentalists’ injunction to stop a pipeline from crossing the Atchafalaya Basin concluded that public interest in wetlands outweighs a company’s potential financial setbacks.Read more
The Sierra Club and local environmental groups claim the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of drastically lower standards for dissolved oxygen in 31 Louisiana rivers will allow for more sewage to be dumped in the water.Read more
New York and nearly a dozen other states sued the Trump administration Tuesday for suspending a 2015 rule that was billed as a long-overdue update intended to improve protections to lakes, rivers, and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.Read more
Texas sued chemical maker Arkema on Thursday for toxic flows from its plant outside Houston that forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes when Hurricane Harvey dumped record-breaking rains on Harris County.Read more
The city of North Las Vegas will pay $385,000 in fines and set up a federally approved wastewater treatment system to settle Clean Water Act violations.Read more
Nine attorney generals fired back against the Trump administration for trying to roll back water protections 40 years in the making.Read more