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Sixth Circuit rules on challenge to EPA regulation of Kentucky waters

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] on a suit brought by several Kentucky environmental groups, including a chapter of the Sierra Club [advocacy website], against Stephen L. Johnson [EPA bio] in his official capacity as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website]. The plaintiffs filed suit under the Clean Water Act [text], seeking to compel Johnson to fulfill his duty to implement antidegradation requirements for Kentucky. In a complex order, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the EPA on the challenge to the EPA’s approval of Kentucky’s selection of regulated waters, reversed the grant of summary judgment to the EPA on the its approval of Kentucky’s exemption of six types of pollution discharges from review, and remanded the matter to the EPA. Judge Clay authored the opinion, stating "In my view, the EPA acted contrary to law by relying on [Kentucky's] unenforceable commitments."

In recent months, the EPA has been sued by a number of states seeking either the promulgation of regulations or effective response to petitions. In August, twelve states filed suit [press release; JURIST report] against the EPA for its alleged failure to enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act [text; EPA materials] requiring oil refineries to adopt measures curbing the pollution contributing to global warming. In July, California Attorney General Jerry Brown [official website] formally notified [letter, PDF; press release] the EPA that the state had petitioned the EPA three times seeking a regulatory ruling and would file a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the agency if it refused to issue rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from various vehicles and types of machinery.

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