Energy & Environmental Law Blog

Energy & Environmental Law Blog

Analyzing the critical energy and environmental issues of the day

Category Archives: Water Law

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Opposition Builds to Proposed Federal Clean Water Act Rules

Posted in EPA, Federal, Rulemakings, Water Law
Federal agencies face growing opposition from members of Congress and industry regarding a proposed definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The scope of federal jurisdiction under the CWA has been one of the most intractable issues in environmental law over the past decade. Recently proposed rules by the… Continue Reading

What’s It All About?

Posted in California, Federal, Litigation, Water Law
There are many lessons that one could take from the outcome of the seven year (and counting) litigation involving environmental groups and the operators of the Los Angeles County stormwater system. Certainly one lesson is to be careful what you ask for when you are drafting your stormwater permit – the Los Angeles County Flood… Continue Reading

Anticipating Washington State’s New Industrial Stormwater General Permit

Posted in Northwest, Rulemakings, Water Law
The Washington Department of Ecology is in the process of renewing the current Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP), which is set to expire on January 1, 2015.  Current permit holders will need to reapply for continued coverage by July 1, 2014.  The 2015 version of the ISGP will mean little or minor changes for some… Continue Reading

Square Pegs in Round Holes

Posted in Federal, Natural Resources, Water Law
The Western states face two reciprocating and overarching problems in water resources policy.  First, water is an increasingly scarce resource facing sharply competitive needs.  Climate change is projected to put even more strain on water supplies.  Second, most streams listed as water-quality impaired in the West are designated as such for issues related to the… Continue Reading

Ecology to hold public meetings on updates to human health criteria in Washington’s water quality standards

Posted in Environmental Quality, Health and Safety, Natural Resources, Northwest, Water Law
On September 12 and 16, 2013, Ecology will hold public meetings at its headquarters in Lacey, Washington regarding its rulemaking to update Washington’s surface water quality standards.  The rule making will set new human health criteria and implement regulatory tools to help dischargers comply with water quality standards. … Continue Reading

Those Dam Polluters!

Posted in Electric Power, Environmental Quality, Health and Safety, Natural Resources, Northwest, Oil & Gas, Water Law
The Columbia and Snake River federal network of dams, and the abundance of low cost electricity it produces, has long been the cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest manufacturing economy.  It has also supported another industry—the legions of lawyers fighting over the environmental effects.  The latest iteration is an attack brought by Columbia Riverkeepers against the… Continue Reading

Sooners Beat Longhorns in Red River Bowl

Posted in Water Law
In a unanimous decision issued June 13, the Supreme Court put an end to a parched Texas municipal utility’s bid to secure an Oklahoma water right.  In Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, the Court rejected every argument Tarrant advanced to access Red River basin water on the Oklahoma side. The fabled college football rivalry… Continue Reading

BLM Revises Proposed Rule on Hydraulic Fracturing

Posted in Environmental Quality, Federal, Health and Safety, Land Use, Natural Resources, Oil & Gas, Water Law
A recent advisory from DWT partners Glenn Benson and Barbara Jost: On May 16, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) issued a revised proposed rule regarding hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands for oil and gas production. In response to the more than 177,000 public comments submitted in… Continue Reading

Do We Really Have A Section 404 Permit?

Posted in EPA, Federal, Water Law
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion on April 23 in Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) invalidation of a discharge permit issued four years prior by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”).  The decision effectively… Continue Reading

City of Seattle and King County Agree to Major Upgrades to Settle Discharge Violations

Posted in Environmental Quality, EPA, Northwest, Water Law
To settle an enforcement action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the State of Washington (“State”), King County and the City of Seattle have agreed to complete major upgrades to their local sewage and combined stormwater collection, piping and treatment systems to address allegedly illegal discharges.  In addition, the County and City have… Continue Reading

Can We Please Talk About Outcomes for a Change???

Posted in EPA, Water Law
I get it that environmental groups place strict compliance with regulatory controls at a premium.  After all, the standards are designed to be protective of the resource, and they are The Law, which must be obeyed. But I sometimes find it dismaying when people conflate immediate, measured and guaranteed compliance with ecological outcomes.  They are… Continue Reading

Logging Roads Get A Pass – At Least For Now

Posted in Environmental Quality, EPA, Federal, Northwest, Water Law
Yesterday, in a 7-1 decision with Justice Scalia the lone dissenter, the U.S. Supreme Court handed a major victory to the forest products industry.  As it does so often, the Court reversed a Ninth Circuit ruling that had required Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for sediment laden stormwater that runs off of logging roads.  The… Continue Reading

First Oregon, Now Washington Water Quality Standards Under Attack

Posted in EPA, Northwest, Water Law
On February 26, in a reprise of its partially successful assault on Oregon water quality standards, Northwest Environmental Advocates sent a Notice of Intent to Sue EPA for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.  The alleged violations relate to EPA approval or inaction on water quality standards promulgated by the Washington… Continue Reading

Maia D. Bellon Named New Director of Washington’s Department of Ecology

Posted in Federal, Water Law
Maia D. Bellon has been named the new director of Washington’s Department of Ecology.  Ms. Bellon currently heads the agency’s Water Resources Program where she oversees the management of water resources including water rights and allocations.  She is also recognized for bringing Lean management practices to her Water Resources Program, something that surely caught the… Continue Reading

Oregon Land Use Bills Aim to Limit Wetland Restoration

Posted in Land Use, Northwest, Water Law
Three Oregon legislators have introduced bills on behalf of the Oregon Farm Bureau requiring land use permits for wetland restoration on farmland. As noted in this article, the Farm Bureau believes that this legislation is necessary to prevent restoration activities from taking land out of agricultural production. House Bill 2173 and Senate Bill 338 would… Continue Reading

Rep. Blumenauer Introduces Water Infrastructure Bill—There’s a Grownup in the House

Posted in Northwest, Water Law
On August 1, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act (HR 6249) to address the nation’s aging water infrastructure.  The bill would use excise taxes targeted at industries that are dependent upon and impact safe and reliable water to reinvigorate the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF).  The CWSRF awards… Continue Reading

Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy explores relationships between water and land use regulation

Posted in Land Use, Natural Resources, Northwest, Sustainability, Water Law
The Oregon Water Resources Department (“WRD”) recently released what WRD hopes will be the final draft of Oregon’s strategy to manage the state’s water resources. The 2009 Oregon Legislature required WRD to develop an “Integrated Water Resources Strategy” (“IWRS”) to protect water quality and ensure adequate water supplies. The IWRS seeks to promote better coordination among… Continue Reading

Washington Department of Ecology’s New Approach to Developing Fish Consumption Rates to Drive Water Quality Rulemaking

Posted in Northwest, Water Law
In a letter dated July 16, 2012, the Director of the Washington Department of Ecology announced that Ecology is modifying its approach to adopting fish consumption rates, which are rates that impact regulatory standards for the protection of surface water and sediment.  Ecology has been under pressure because both industry and environmental groups have been… Continue Reading


Posted in Natural Resources, Renewables, Water Law
In my May 29 post, I suggested that new approaches are coming to address the tension between growing water demand for energy production, municipal and industrial needs, and preservation of natural resources.  Mitigation through watershed restoration, using emerging ecosystem services markets, tops the list.  Conventional mitigation focused on local replacements, acre for acre, bucket for… Continue Reading

Water and Energy: A Zero Sum Game?

Posted in Natural Resources, Renewables, Water Law
From Rick Glick of our Portland Office: Energy production from almost all technologies depends on large volumes of water.  Competition for scarce water supplies, particularly in the West, grows more intense as demand for both energy and water increases.  An obvious Northwest example is a decade-old federal case over whether elements of the Federal Columbia River… Continue Reading