NRDC v. Cnty. of Los Angeles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 08-08-2013
  • Case #: 10-56017
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. D. Smith Jr. for the Court; Circuit Judge Pregerson and Senior District Judge Holland
  • Full Text Opinion

Monitoring data that shows pollutants greater than the amount allowed by permit in federally navigable waters is conclusive proof that those discharging are liable for a violation of their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.

Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) and Santa Monica Baykeeper filed suit alleging the County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Flood Control District were in violation of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) by discharging polluted storm water. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants reasoning that the Plaintiffs' evidence failed to prove any individual defendant had discharged in violation of the Clean Water Act because Plaintiffs took date samples from downstream rather than at relevant discharge points. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court decision. The Supreme Court then reversed and remanded the case back to the Ninth Circuit. On remand, the panel held that the pollution exceedances detected at the Defendants’ stations was sufficient to establish liability for the NPDES permit violation as a matter of law. The panel reasoned that because the Plaintiffs’ monitoring data showed pollutants exceeding that allowed in federally protected navigable bodies of water, this conclusively demonstrated that Defendants were not in compliance with the permit and as such were liable for damages. The panel further held that the monitoring requirements listed in the Clean Water Act support their decision. The panel remanded for further proceedings, including a determination of the appropriate remedy. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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