The Clean Water Act: The Broadening of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permitting Program to Regulate Indirect Discharge Through Groundwater
On January 14, 2021, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued a Guidance Memorandum (hereinafter “Memo”) addressing the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Foundation, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020) regarding the regulation of water pollution under the Clean Water Act (CWA or “the Act”). The Memo outlined how the Court’s recent ruling in the County of Maui applies to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit program created under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (hereinafter “Section 402”). The intent of the EPA in publishing the Memo is to help clarify the effect of the Court’s ruling in County of Maui for owners and operators of facilities subject to the regulation of the CWA, the primary regulatory framework for governing water pollution in the United States. The ruling in County of Maui expands the types of discharge that are subject to the CWA’s regulatory permit program and illuminates the steps required of facility owners and operators to comply with that framework.