Supreme Court to decide Clean Water Act enforcement case

The Supreme Court has been asked to determine who has the primary authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. 

A South Carolina case involves Arabella Farm and its efforts to clear about 20 acres near a river and two streams for a vineyard, orchard, and wedding venue.  The state forced the work to stop in 2019 and scheduled a hearing for possible Clean Water Act violations, but before the state issued a six-thousand-dollar penalty, environmental groups Naturaland Trust and Trout Unlimited sued Arabella Farm in federal court.

The district court dismissed the environmental groups’ lawsuit, but the 4th Circuit Appeals Court reinstated it.  Now Arabella Farm wants the Supreme Court to decide what threshold of state regulation precludes citizen lawsuits and clarify that the states have the primary role in protecting the nation’s waters.

American Farm Bureau Federation and three other groups filed a brief supporting Arabella Farm, saying Congress constrained citizen suits, saying they are preempted whenever a State has already commenced and is “diligently prosecuting” a Clean Water Act violation.

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