American Bar Association
 
Water Resources
American Bar Association Energy and Resources Committees

Water Resources


Recent Water Law Cases & Hot News




RecentWaterLawCases

Youcanvisitthearchivedcaseshere.

================================

UpdatedonAugust8,2014

SanLuisandDelta-WaterAuthorityv.Jewell,747F.3d581
byMichaelTone

TheU.S.CourtofAppealsfortheNinthCircuitrecentlyreversedtheEasternDistrictofCaliforniaandruledthattheFishandWildlifeService’s(“FWS”)BiologicalOpinion(“BiOp”)protectingtheDeltaSmelt(“Smelt”)wasnotarbitraryorcapricious.SanLuisandDelta-WaterAuthorityv.Jewell,747F.3d581,591(9thCir.2014).Readmore.

CityofDoverv.U.S.E.P.A.,(D.D.C.2013)
byJohnFamiglietti

Plaintiffs,theCitiesofDover,Rochester,andPortsmouth,allofwhichareinNewHampshire,broughtsuitagainsttheU.S.EnvironmentalProtectionAgency(“EPA”)pursuanttotheCleanWaterAct's("CWA")§505(a)(2)citizensuitprovision,allegingthattheEPAfailedtoperformanondiscretionarydutyundertheCWAwhenitfailedtoreviewastateproposal(“2009Document”)suggestingcertainnutrientlevelsfortheGreatBayEstuary.CityofDoverv.U.S.E.P.A.,956F.Supp.2d272(D.D.C.2013).Readmore.

SteuveBrothersFarms,LLCv.UnitedStates,737F.3d750(Fed.Cir.2013)
byMarcJ.Herman

SouthernCaliforniaprovidedthebackdropasthefederalgovernmentscoredanimportantvictoryintheclassicstandoffbetweenprivatepropertyrightsandgovernmentalaction.StueveBros.Farms,LLCv.UnitedStates,737F.3d750(Fed.Cir.2013).Sidingwiththegovernment,theU.S.CourtofAppealsfortheFederalCircuitfirmlydistinguishedbetweenfictionandreality.Readmore.

DrakesBayOysterCompanyv.Jewell,729F.3d967(9thCir.Sept.3,2013)
byJackJ.Bingham

Thisappealpits“anoysterfarm,oysterlovers,andwell-known‘foodies’againstenvironmentalistsalignedwiththefederalgovernment.”DrakesBayOysterCo.v.Jewell,729F.3d967,971(9thCir.2013).Inrulingforthefederalgovernment,theU.S.CourtofAppealsfortheNinthCircuitaffirmedthedistrictcourt'sdecisionthatdeniedDrakesBayOysterCompany’s(“DrakesBay”)requestforaninjunctionrequiringtheU.S.DepartmentoftheInterior("Interior")toissueaspecialusepermit.Id.Readmore.

YellowJacketWaterConservancyDistrictv.Livingston,318P.3d454(Colo.2013)
byKatherineClark

OnDecember23,2013,theSupremeCourtofColoradoreviewedthewatercourt’sdeterminationthatawaterconservancydistrict’sboardofholdoverdirectorscouldnolongeractonadistrict’sbehalfoneyearaftertheirtermsexpired,makingthefilingofcertaindiligenceapplicationsinvalid.YellowJacketWaterConservancyDist.v.Livingston,318P.3d454,455(Colo.2013).Readmore.

CatskillMountainsChapterofTroutUnlimited,Inc.v.EPA,2014U.S.Dist.LEXIS42535(S.D.N.Y.Mar.28,2014)
byEdwardTeyber

OnMarch28,2014,theU.S.DistrictCourtfortheSouthernDistrictofNewYorkvacatedEPA’sWaterTransfersRule(“Rule”),whichhadcreatedanexceptiontotheCleanWaterAct(“CWA”)NationalPollutionDischargeEliminationSystem’s(“NPDES”)permittingschemeforwatertransfers.TheRulewascodifiedunderEPA’s“Exclusions”regulation,40C.F.R.§122.3(i).Readmore.

Strudleyv.AnteroResourcesCorp.,,2013WL3427901(Colo.App.July3,2013)
byEmilyDeans

WaterandpropertycontaminationfromnaturalgasproductionrecentlybecametheoccasionfortheColoradocourtstoexaminethestate’stoxictortprocedures.TheStrudleyfamilybroughtatoxictortactionagainstfournaturalgascompanies,claimingpropertydamageandphysicalinjuriesfromthecompanies’naturalgasdrillingoperationsneartheirhome.Readmore.

RobinsonTownshipv.Commonwealth,2013WL6687290(Pa.Dec.19,2013)
byMichaelTone

TheSupremeCourtofPennsylvaniarecentlyreviewedtheCommonwealthCourt’senbancrulingontheconstitutionalityofAct13,acontroversialamendmenttothePennsylvaniaOilandGasAct(“Act”).RobinsonTwp.v.Commonwealth,2013WL6687290,at*4(Pa.Dec.19,2013).Readmore.

-------------------------------------------------------------

HotNews

Ifyouhaveahotnewsitemthatyouwouldlikeposted,pleasesendittoKirkTracyatktracy@paladinlaw.com.

Youcanvisitthearchivednewsarticleshere.

AmericanFarmBureauFederationfilesreplybriefinThirdCircuitChesapeakeBayTMDLappeal.-August20,2014

TheAmericanFarmBureauFederation("AFBF")fileditsreplybriefinthehighlywatchedTMDLcase,AmericanFarmBureauFederationv.U.S.EnvironmentalProtectionAgency,(3d.Cir.2014)(No.13-4079).Initsappealbrief,AFBFargues,interalia,thattheEPA'sinterpretationofChevroniserroneous,thattheEPAhasnoauthorityunderCleanWaterAct§303(d)toaddsourcelimits,andthatthethe“reasonableassurances”cannotbeachievedonEPA’stimeline.IftheThirdCircuitupholdstheDistrictCourt'sruling,EPAmaybeabletolevycapsonnitrogen,phosphorus,andsedimentdischargesintotheChesapeakeBaywatershed.SeetheAFBFbriefhere.

EPAandDOJAnnounceSettlementforCWAViolationsforDestructionofVernalPoolWetlandsandStreamsinCalifornia'sCentralValley-August18,2014

TheU.S.EPAandDOJannouncedasettlementwiththeownersofAnchordoguyranch,inTehamaCounty,California,forviolationsoftheCleanWaterActthatdestroyedmorethan80acresofrarevernalpoolwetlandsandstreams.Ranchownershaveagreedtopay$300,000inpenaltiesand$795,000toTheNatureConservancytopreservevernalpoolandsalmonhabitatsintheSacramentoRiverwatershed.Between2008and2010,theownersdeep-ripped872acresoftheranchtomakeroomformoreorchards,destroying80acresofvernalpoolwetlandsanddamagingtwoacresofCoyoteCreek,allwithoutarequiredCWAsection404permitfromtheArmyCorpsofEngineers.Theproposedsettlementissubjecttoa30-daypubliccommentperiodandfinalcourtapproval,andcanbereadhere.

StateofEmergencyDeclaredinToledoDuetoWaterContaminationfromAlgaeToxins-August6,2014

ThousandsofToledoandMichiganresidentswereleftwithoutdrinkingwaterforovertwodaysduetoatoxinproducedbyanalgaebloominLakeErie.TheMayorofToledoimplementedamunicipalbanondrinkingwateruses,includingforbathing--notevenboilingthewaterwouldremovethetoxins.Thishasbeenarecurringeventoverthepastfewyears.

EastBayMunicipalUtilityDistrictAgreestoSpend$1.5billiontoUpgradeSewerSystem-August6,2014

TheU.S.EnvironmentalProtectionAgencyannouncedaCleanWaterActsettlementrequiringtheEastBayMunicipalUtilityDistrict(EastBayMUD)andsevenEastBaycommunitiestoconductextensivesystemrepairsaimedateliminatingmillionsofgallonsofsewagedischargesintoSanFranciscoBay.Undertheagreement,EastBayMUDandthecommunitieswillassessandupgradetheir1,500mile-longsewersysteminfrastructureovera21-yearperiod.Theworkisexpectedtocostapproximately$1.5billion.Theentitieswillpaycivilpenaltiesof$1.5millionforpastsewagedischargesthatviolatedfederalenvironmentallaw.

ElginMiningCo.agreestopay$3.2milliontosettleallegedCWAviolations-August6,2014

ElginMiningCo.agreestopay$3.2milliontosettleallegedviolationsoftheCleanWaterActclaimsinconnectionwithitsstripminingactivitiesinKentucky.Theclaimsinvolvefailurestorestoreorreplacestreamsandwetlands.Readmorehere.

$8BillionChileanHydropowerProjectRevoked-July27,2014

InJune,aministerialcommitteedeclaredthe$8billionHidroAysenhydropowerprojectinChileunfeasibleasisandcancelledtheproject'spermit.Theprojectinvolvestheconstructionof5damson2riversinPatagonia,buthasbeenhotlycontestedbyenvironmentalists.Thecommitteeconcludedthattheprojectfailedtoadequatelyconsiderenvironmentaldamageorimpactsonpeoplewhowouldbedisplacedbytheproject.Thetwocompaniescollaboratingonthisprojectareconsideringrevisingtheirproposalorabandoningtheirplans.

SettlementReachedinW.Va.ChemicalSpillCase-July27,2014

OnJuly18,2014,aputativeclassofalmost400,000membersreachedasettlementwiththecompanyallegedlyresponsiblefortheJanuary2014chemicalspillintotheElkRiverthatcontaminatedthewatersupplyof300,000WestVirginiaresidents.FreedomIndustries,Inc.willtransfer$2.9millionintoatrustfundtobeusedfortheinterestsofthegeneralwelfareincludingchemicaltestingandmedicalstudies.OnJan.9,2014,over7,000gallonsof4-methylcyclohexanemethanol(MCHM)leakedintotheElkRiverfromoneofthecompany'sstoragetanks.

FifthCircuitReversesWhoopingCraneDecisionandFindsNoESAViolation-July6,2014

OnJune30,2014,theFifthCircuitCourtofAppealsreversedalowercourtdecisionthatTexashadviolatedtheEndangeredSpeciesAct(ESA)byfailingtoensurethatadequatesuppliesoffreshwaterflowedintotheriverservingthewhoopingcranes'habitat,thereby"taking"whoopingcranes,aprotectedspeciesundertheESA.TheFifthCircuitheldthatthedistrictcourtfailedtofollowtheforeseeabilityandproximatecauserequirementsforESAliabilityasestablishedbytheU.S.SupremeCourt,andtheconnectionbetweenthestate'spermittingactionsandthewhoopingcraneswastooremotetoestablishliability.TheFifthCircuitalsooverturnedthelowercourt'sinjunction-whichhadorderedstateofficialstorefrainfromapprovingorgrantingnewwaterpermitsuntiltheStateofTexaspersuadedthecourtthatthepermitswouldnottakewhoopingcranesinviolationoftheESA-asanabuseofdiscretion.Aransasv.Shaw,No.13-40317(5thCir.June30,2014).

Pres.ObamaSignsBilltoFightAlgalBloomsinGreatLakes-July6,2014

OnJune30,2014,PresidentObamasignedtheHarmfulAlgalBloomandHypoxiaResearchandControlAmendmentsAct,whichfocusesonendingharmfulalgalbloomsintheGreatLakes.Thelegislation,S.1254,authorizes$20.5millionayearforfiveyears,callsforafederaltaskforcetocreateaplantoaddressharmfulalgalbloomsintheGreatLakes,andfundsresearchtodevelopbetterwaystofightthealgalblooms.

NewReportonEvergladesRestorationPlanFindsMorePlanningthanImplementation-July6,2014

OnJune27,2014,theNationalResearchCouncilissuedanewreporttoCongressonthestatusoftheComprehensiveEvergladesRestorationPlan(CERP),amultibilliondollareffortlaunchedin2000toprotectandrehabilitatetheEvergladesecosystemandSouthFlorida'swatersystem.Thereportconcludedthatprogresshasbeenmadeoverthelasttwoyearsintermsofplanning,butprojectimplementationhasbeenimpededbyfinancial,procedural,andpolicyconstraints,andrestorationworkhasbeenmodesttodate.Formoreinformation,clickhere.

NewPlanAnnouncedtoDealwithAsianCarpinGreatLakes-June29,2014

TheAsianCarpRegionalCoordinatingCommitteehasannouncedanewplantodealwithaninvasivespeciesofAsiancarpintheGreatLakes.Theplanincludesa$24millionelectricbarrierintheChicagoAreaWaterwaySystem(CAWS),andaphysicalbarrierseparatingtheGreatLakesfromtheMississippiRivernearFortWayne,Indiana.TheupdatedMonitoringandResponsePlanwillfocusonmonitoringandremovingthefishthatendupdownstreamoftheElectricBarrierSystemintheCAWSaswellasintheupperIllinoisWaterway.Theplanaimstopreventthecarpfromformingself-sustainingpopulationsintheGreatLakes.TheAsiancarpwereintroducedintotheUSoverthreedecadesagotocontrolalgalbuild-upinsewagetreatmentplants,butthenescapedtotheMississippiRiverandthentotheGreatLakes.Readmorehere.

TexasWaterDevelopmentBoardProposesNewRulesforWaterSupplyProjects-June29,2014

TheTexasWaterDevelopmentBoardreleaseddraftrulesforfundingmajorfuturewatersupplyprojects.Thedraftrulessetforthguidelinesforapointsystembywhichtheboardwillrankprojectsapplyingforaninitialpoolof$2billioninfunding,whichwasapprovedbyTexasvotersinNovember2013.Therulesconsiderlegislativemandatestosetaside10percentoffundsforruralprojectsand20percentforconservationandreuseprojectsareconsidered“afloorandnotaceiling.”TheboardisholdingpublichearingsandwillacceptpubliccommentsuntilSept.1,2014.

USSupremeCourtHoldsthatCERCLADoesNotPreemptStateStatutesofRepose-June12,2014

OnJune9,2014,theU.S.SupremeCourtheldthatCERCLAdoesnotpreemptstatestatutesofrepose.CTSCorp.v.Waldburger,No.13-339,isavailablehere.Section9658ofCERCLAprovidesa"federallyrequiredcommencementdate"forstatelawtortclaimsforpersonalinjuryorpropertydamagefromhazardoussubstances,startingwhentheplaintiffdiscovered,orreasonablyshouldhavediscovered,thattheharmwascausedbythehazardoussubstance.Instead,theCourtheldthatSection9658onlypreemptsstatestatutesoflimitations.Thedecisionprecludesrespondents'claimfordamagesforwellwatercontaminationdiscoveredin2009,whichwasbroughtmorethan10yearsafterthelastculpableactofCTSCorp.andis,therefore,precludedbyNorthCarolina'sstatuteofrepose.

VermontAGSuesOilCompaniesforMTBEContamination-June6,2014

OnJune5,2014,Vermont'sAttorneyGeneral,WilliamSorrell,suedtwodozenrefinersforgroundwatercontaminationbymethyltertiary-butylether(MTBE),agasolineadditive.ThedefendantsincludeBP,ChevronCorp.,andExxonMobilCorp.,andareallegedtohavepromoted,marketed,anddistributedMTBEknowingthatitposedriskstogroundwater.ThissuitjoinsthemanyotherclaimsacrossthecountryagainstrefinersaswellasretailersanddistributorsoverMTBE.ThecaseisStateofVermontv.AtlanticRichfieldCo.,VermontSuperiorCourt,WashingtonCounty(Montpelier).

FarmersInsuranceDropsNovelClassActionSuitsAgainstIllinoisMunicipalities-June6,2014

FarmersInsuranceCo.isdismissingitsclassactionsuitsinIllinoisfederalandstatecourtsagainstIllinoismunicipalitiesforfailingtotakestepstoprepareforclimatechange,resultinginpropertyandeconomicdamagesincurredbyitspolicyholdersfollowingsignificantrainstormsinApril2013.Farmershadclaimedthatthemunicipalitiesfailedtoaddressknownproblemswiththeirstormwaterandsewersystems.Inthesesubrogationsuits,Farmerswassteppingintotheshoesofitspolicyholders.Thisunprecedentedclimatechangelitigationhadreceivedwidespreadattentionfromthemediaandlegalcommunity.

FifthCircuitHoldsBPCanBeLiableUnderCleanWaterActforDeepwaterHorizonSpill-June6,2014

OnJune4,2014,theFifthCircuitaffirmedalowercourt'srulingthatBPandAndarkoPetroleumCorp.canbeheldliableundertheCleanWaterActinconnectionwiththeDeepwaterHorizonpollutionincident.Therulingsubjectsthecompanies,ownersoftheMacondoWellthatblewoutin2010,topotentiallybillionsofdolalrsinfinesundertheCWA.Thedecisionisavailablehere.ThecourtscheduledatrialforJanuary2015ontheamountofpenaltiesowed.

NinthCircuitAffirmsDismissalofChallengetoPlanTransferringWaterfromFarmstoCitiesinSouthernCalifornia-May20,2014

OnMay19,2014,theNinthCircuitaffirmedthelowercourt'sdismissalofthesuitbroughbyImperialCounty,California,againsttheU.S.DepartmentoftheInteriorchallengingalandmarkaccordtransferringwaterfromtheColoradoRiverfromfarmstocitiesinSanDiegoCounty.Thecourtruledthatthewaterdistributionplandidnotviolatefederalenvironmentallaw.ThegovernmenthadfollowedrequirementssetforthinNEPAandtheCleanAirActwhenitanalyzedtheimpactofthenewwaterdistributionplan.ThecaseisPeopleoftheStateofCaliforniaexrel.ImperialCountyAirPollutionControlDistrictv.U.S.DepartmentoftheInterioretal.(No.12-55856).

EPAFinalizesCoolingWaterIntakeRule-May20,2014

OnMay19,2014,EPAfinallyfinalizeditscoolingwaterintakerule,whichappliestoover1,000powerplantsandfactoriesthatpullinatleast2milliongallonsofwaterdailyinordertopowertheircoolingsystems.Suckinginthiswater,however,canalsopullinlargenumbersoffish,shellfish,andtheireggs,damagingorkillingtheorganisms.Section316(b)oftheCleanWaterActrequiresEPAtoissueregulationsonthedesignandoperationofintakestructures,inordertominimizeadverseenvironmentalimpacts.Theruleisavailablehere.


Message From The Chairs



We are well into 2014 and, as always, there is a lot happening in water resources and the SEER Water Resources committee.



Sorell Negro and her fabulous team continue to provide Committee members with case summaries and Hot News. If you would like to contribute to either, please contact Sorell directly at SNegro@rc.com.



We recently held our first conference call on the topic of state water resources planning. It was moderated by Tim Weston from Pennsylvania and included panelists from Montana, Colorado and West Virginia.



On the heels of the 43rd Annual SEER Spring Conference in Salt Lake City, UT, in March, the Committee is preparing for the 32nd Annual SEER Water Law Conference, which will be held June 4-6, 2014, at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, NV. This is the same SEER Water Law Conference that used to be held in February in San Diego. This year's program will cover topics that are increasingly relevant to water lawyers, managers and users. Sessions will cover: Tribal Water Law 101; tribal water settlements; the water implications of new energy regulations; the new green water infrastructure (and its financing); emerging interstate water issues; constitutional takings litigation over water rights; and a “nuts-and-bolts” hydrology session, among others. The conference is held near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and will include a field trip to the Hoover Dam. You can register for the conference here: http://www.americanbar.org/calendar/2014/06/32nd-annual-water-law-conference.html



The conference is only possible with the help of the remarkable people on our planning committee. Thank you all!



We always welcome members to become involved in the Committee’s ongoing evolution, especially with respect to Programs suggestions and contributions to the Committee Newsletter. Contact us at robinkcraig@gmail.com, 801-585-5228, or jschutz@mwjlaw.com, 801-359-3663, with any ideas you have about how the Water Resources Committee or SEER can better serve your or your firm’s professional development needs, or if you want to be more involved, but aren't sure how best to contribute. We always have a place for you.



Robin Craig, Co-chair, Water Resources Committee


Jon Schutz, Co-Chair, Water Resources Committee


Committee Description, Awards, & Events

The Water Resources Committee focuses on substantive and practice developments that impact water allocation and availability for all water users. These developments fall into a broad spectrum of subject areas, including state water law; federal and tribal water law; issues arising under the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act; interstate allocation of water; the Public Trust and Prior Appropriation Doctrines; reserved water rights; state, local and municipal water supply; water rights transfers; and federal reclamation law. In light of increasing issues of water scarcity, the committee's interests encompass the interdependence of water uses by all economic sectors - agriculture, mining, fisheries, tourism, energy, and water and wastewater utilities among them - and the inescapable connection between water quantity and water quality.

LinkedIn


Committee Resources

Join Us


2013-2014 Water Resources Committee Leadership

View the full roster of Water Resources Committee leadership.
more...


View Committee Newsletters

Committee newsletters provide current information on topics of interest to practitioners and news of committee activities. View the latest committee newsletter.
more...


Committee Chair

Co-Chairs:

Craig, Robin
Schutz, Jonathan

Committee Roster  


Sites of Interest


Water Resources - Archive

Modified by Jonathan Wolff on August 27, 2014

Back to Top