President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Fourth Circuit defended herself on Wednesday from questions about her relatively limited legal experience, saying her time practicing before appeals courts qualifies her for a seat on the federal bench.Read more
Sentences for hundreds, if not thousands of convicted criminals could be upended following an en banc Fourth Circuit hearing Wednesday afternoon over crimes of violence laws.Read more
The Fourth Circuit on Wednesday was asked to decide whether police violated the rights of a man who later pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge by using an overly broad warrant to search his cellphone and house.Read more
Does a politician have the right to block critics from their official social media pages? That question was asked of an appeals court for the first time Wednesday.Read more
The chief justice of the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday questioned the validity of eminent domain laws, describing them as a holdover from the days when Americans were royal subjects.Read more
The Fourth Circuit on Wednesday said Latino residents of a Virginia mobile home park can proceed with a lawsuit challenging a park policy of requiring them to prove they’re legal U.S. residents before they can move in.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
The Fourth Circuit ruled Thursday that the University of South Carolina did not harass or otherwise impede the of two student groups asked to address concerns about a “Free Speech Event” they planned to hold on the campus.Read more
A federal prosecutor and judge nominated for the Fourth Circuit appeals court by President Donald Trump won the overwhelming support Thursday of the U.S. Senate.Read more
The Fourth Circuit revoked construction permits Monday for a natural gas pipeline that environmentalists and locals say will harm endangered species and impact scenic views on federally protected lands.Read more
Construction of a natural gas pipeline through federally-protected lands has reportedly stopped after a Fourth Circuit panel found two federal agencies acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” during the permitting process.Read more
The Fourth Circuit held Tuesday that North Carlina is immune from being sued by a flimmaker who accused the state of using his copyrighted images of Blackbeard’s pirate ship while it was being salvaged off the Carolina coast.Read more
Virginia’s attorney general on Friday appealed a Fourth Circuit ruling allowing for the resentencing of Lee Boyd Malvo, of one of two “DC Snipers, who was 17 at the time of the murders.Read more
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
Two of President Donald Trump’s nominees to seats on the Fourth Circuit had an easy hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, promising lawmakers they would remain independent and fair if confirmed to the federal bench.Read more
RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Fourth Circuit ruled Monday that a Maryland police officer is entitled to qualified immunity fromRead more
The Baltimore state’s attorney who blamed police for the death of Freddie Gray has immunity from five officers’ civil claims, the Fourth Circuit ruled Monday in a resounding vindication of prosecutorial authority.Read more
Fifty years after their family members were killed in a West Virginia mining disaster, descendants of the 78 left dead pressed the Fourth Circuit Wednesday to allow them to hold the mine owner responsible.Read more
Two legal challenges to a controversial natural gas pipeline were heard by the Fourth Circuit Tuesday, the plaintiffs taking issue with how the pipeline will be constructed and its long-term implications for the environment.Read more
Is a university responsible for anonymous online threats made against its students? That’s what a group of University of Mary Washington students is hoping to find out after taking their argument to the Fourth Circuit Tuesday.Read more