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Water-Related News

EPA wants Supreme Court to take case dealing with timing of suits challenging regulations

By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporters

U.S. EPA on Friday asked the Supreme Court to review a Florida water case that the agency says set a dangerous precedent for how long environmental groups may wait before filing lawsuits challenging regulations.

At issue in the case is EPA's policy for water transfers between two sources. For years, advocates have asked various courts to force the agency to issue National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permits for water moved from canals to Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida.

NPDES permits are required for point sources of discharges into U.S. waters and typically require permit holders to meet effluent pollution limits.

In 2008, EPA issued its Water Transfers Rule, which states that such transfers do not need NPDES permits.

But a jurisdictional dispute quickly arose: Can environmental groups challenge the regulations in federal district court — which would give them six years to do so -- or must they go straight to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals within 120 days?

EPA says the groups, including Friends of the Everglades, must go straight to the 11th Circuit. The agency says the transfers rule falls under a Clean Water Act provision that provides direct appellate review.