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Rejecting the Trump administration’s novel 2019 interpretation that the Clean Water Act never requires permits for pollutant discharges to groundwater, the United States Supreme Court handed down, on April 23, its eagerly awaited decision in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al.

The 6-3 majority held that Section 301 of the Clean Water Act requires an NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit for a point source discharge that reaches navigable waters after traveling through groundwater “if that discharge is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge ….” (emphasis added). The case is the last word (for now) in a highly publicized dispute about Maui’s underground injection of treated sewage waste water, a large part of which migrates a short distance via groundwater into the Pacific Ocean.

Read the full GT Alert: “Supreme Court: Pollutants Reaching Navigable Waters Through Groundwater May Require Permit Under Clean Water Act.”

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Photo of Bernadette M. Rappold Bernadette M. Rappold

Bernadette M. Rappold focuses her practice on federal and state regulatory issues related to energy, manufacturing, and the environment. Bernadette has substantial litigation experience and advises clients on regulatory compliance as well as the environmental, safety, and health aspects of numerous business and…

Bernadette M. Rappold focuses her practice on federal and state regulatory issues related to energy, manufacturing, and the environment. Bernadette has substantial litigation experience and advises clients on regulatory compliance as well as the environmental, safety, and health aspects of numerous business and real estate transactions, including water, air, and chemical hazards. Bernadette offers clients perspective gained through years of service at the Environmental Protection Agency. While serving as a director of the Special Litigation and Projects Division in the Office of Civil Enforcement at the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Bernadette led complex enforcement actions in response to violations of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and other environmental statutes. Her work at the EPA covered a variety of economic and industrial sectors including the oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and agriculture industries.

Photo of Steven Barringer Steven Barringer

Steven Barringer is a member of GT’s Environmental and Government Law and Policy practice groups. Steve has a unique practice that combines substantive environmental law knowledge with deep government law and policy experience. He began his career as an attorney-adviser and Special Assistant

Steven Barringer is a member of GT’s Environmental and Government Law and Policy practice groups. Steve has a unique practice that combines substantive environmental law knowledge with deep government law and policy experience. He began his career as an attorney-adviser and Special Assistant to the Solicitor at the Department of Interior. In private practice, Steve has represented industry clients in numerous EPA rulemakings, and defended clients in enforcement actions brought by EPA and states. He has advised companies regarding compliance with federal and state environmental laws. Steve has represented parties involved at major Superfund sites – including several of the largest Superfund sites in the United States – both in remediation settlement negotiations and cost-recovery actions. He has advised clients on international treaty obligations applicable to the transboundary movement of mercury and other hazardous wastes, and has managed local counsel examining environmental laws in Central America and Europe applicable to the transboundary movement of such wastes.

Steve’s broad experience representing environmental clients led to his work on government law and policy matters. He has interacted with federal and state regulators on numerous rule-makings and policy developments. He advises clients regarding federal legislative and agency strategy, including use of the appropriations process to achieve policy goals. Steve served on an EPA advisory committee examining federal hazardous waste regulations, and was selected by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to represent industry stakeholders in negotiations to develop consensus amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. He led an industry group advocating for reform of the federal mining laws. Representing industry clients, Steve has worked together with nongovernmental organizations to secure federal legislation banning the export of mercury from the United States.

Steve has been recognized by Who’s Who Legal as one of the top environmental practitioners representing the mining industry. One client described him as “absolutely the best.” He speaks and publishes on environmental legal and policy topics.