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District Courts Have Jurisdiction Over Challenges to Clean Water Rule, Supreme Court Says

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the federal district courts can hear challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 Clean Water Rule, rejecting the federal government’s arguments that federal courts of appeal have exclusive jurisdiction over such claims. The Court’s ruling means that the Sixth Circuit will have to dissolve its nationwide injunction against the Clean Water Rule, which revised the definition of “waters of the United States” that are subject to the Clean Water Act. Meanwhile, suits in district courts can proceed, including a suit in the District of North Dakota, where the court granted an injunction against implementation of the Clean Water Rule in 13 states.

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Nat’l Ass’n of Mfrs. v. Dep’t of Def., No. 16-299, leaves the EPA and Army Corps at least temporarily free to implement the Clean Water Rule in other states, but the immediate impact of the ruling may be limited. Under the Trump administration, the agencies have already issued a proposed rulemaking to recodify the regulations in effect prior to adoption of the Clean Water Rule, and another to delay the effective date of the Rule by two years while the agencies consider further revising the definition of waters of the United States in accordance with a Trump Executive Order. Those proposed rules, if finalized, would maintain the status quo that has been in effect since the Sixth Circuit issued its injunction against the Clean Water Rule in October 2015.

Copyright © 2019, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

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About this Author

James Rusk, land use attorney, sheppard mullin
Associate

James Rusk is an associate with the Land Use and Natural Resources practice group in the firm’s San Francisco office.

Areas of Practice

Natural Resources. Mr. Rusk represents residential, commercial and energy developers in natural resources permitting, regulatory compliance and litigation. He focuses on endangered species, wetlands, and storm water issues under federal and state law, in addition to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). Because every project is...

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S. Keith Garner, Sheppard Mullin, Legal Specialist, environmental laws
Partner

Keith Garner, AICP, is a partner in the Real Estate, Land Use, Natural Resources and Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Francisco office.

Areas of Practice

Mr. Garner's practice focuses on state and federal environmental laws, land use planning and entitlement procedures, and natural resources permitting issues for large residential, commercial and mixed use communities and energy generation and transmission projects, including wind and solar facilities. He provides legal and strategic planning advice to clients at every stage of the complex development process, including due diligence for land acquisition, project planning and permitting, regulatory compliance, and land use litigation. He handles a wide range of state and federal regulatory matters, including endangered species, wetlands, water quality and land use issues, initiatives and referendums, environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Williamson Act contracts, and State Lands issues. He frequently manages the interdisciplinary teams needed to address the regulatory requirements and permit conditions.

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