By David Savage, Feb 2019, LA TIMES:
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether the Clean Water Act can prevent sewage plants from putting waste water into the ground if it flows from there into a river, bay or the ocean.
The case from Hawaii is an important test of the reach of the federal government’s anti-pollution authority.
Environmentalists sued alleging a sewage plant in Maui was discharging treated waste water into the ground and it was flowing underground from there into the Pacific Ocean.
They won before a federal judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which held that the pollution was subject to federal control because it was the “functional equivalent of a discharge into the navigable water.”
But the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from Hawaii that was backed by the Assn. of California Water Agencies. Their lawyers called the 9th Circuit’s ruling a “radical expansion” of federal authority. If upheld, its approach would extend new federal regulation to water treatment plants across the country, they said.
The Clean Water Act calls for preventing discharge of pollutants into the “navigable waters of the United States.” Water agencies say the law refers only to polluted water flowing directly into streams, rivers and bays, not groundwater.
For more than a decade, the justices have been split over how far the federal government can go to regulate water inside the United States, whether it be wetlands, or, as in this case, groundwater. The court’s conservatives have argued the federal government can only regulate polluted water that flows directly into a river, bay or the ocean. The law forbids discharges of pollutants into “the waters of the United States.”
But environmentalists as well as the court’s liberal justices have said this authority can extend farther inland to prevent pollution that will eventually flow into rivers and bays.
The case, County of Maui vs. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, is scheduled to be heard in the fall.
For the full article in the LA Times see: