Policy Pulse: Courts Continue to Evaluate Clean Water Rule

In early December 2015, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had suspended implementation of the Clean Water Rule nationwide a few months earlier, considered arguments about whether or not the rule should be reviewed at the appellate or district court levels. This decision has major implications for the amount of time it could take for judicial review and a clear decision on the merits of the rule itself.

Polluted Creek in Marydel MD_credit Chesapeake Bay ProgramOpponents have filed multiple lawsuits nationwide and argue that these lawsuits should be adjudicated one by one in the district court. These lower court decisions would likely be appealed to the Court of Appeals, setting up a lengthy appellate review process. The Obama administration’s Justice Department argues the most efficient process, which is also supported by precedent concerning certain other EPA rules, is for suits to be consolidated at the appeals court level and argued there. This consolidation will avoid protracted delays associated with arguing essentially the same lawsuits in multiple district and appellate courts. Regardless of their position on the rule itself, virtually everyone agrees it could be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the time Outdoor America went to print, the Sixth Circuit Court had not issued a decision on this issue.