Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 25, 2012
Case #: 11-460
Court Below: 673 F.3d 880 (9th Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2011/07/13/10-56017.pdf

Environmental Law: Whether water that flows from one point in a navigable waterway, through a man-made channel, and back into the same river, can be considered a "discharge" from an "outfall" under the Clean Water Act.

From 2002 to 2008, Petitioner’s monitoring stations identified hundreds of violations of pollutant levels from storm water run-off. Respondent sued claiming that by measuring and allowing the polluted water to flow unabated, Petitioner caused or added to the exceeding of various pollutant levels in violation of the Clean Water Act. (33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq.).

The District Court held that Petitioner was not the cause of the pollution because water removed from a river and returned to the same river could not be considered a "point source" for pollutants. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. It held that when Petitioner detected the pollutants in non-navigable waters it controlled, and then returned them to navigable waters, that Petitioner caused or contributed to the pollutant levels in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the water removed from a river at one point and returned to the same river can be considered a discharge under the Clean Water Act. Petitioner argues that the Ninth Circuit's ruling is contrary to the Court's holding in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Indians , 541 U.S. 95 (2004), which bars claims based on the transfer of water within a single body of water.