By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter
OMAHA (DTN) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Thursday in the case County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund leaves open the possibility the EPA can regulate groundwater.
The high court vacated and returned a ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The Ninth Circuit previously ruled pollution discharges traveling through groundwater and to a navigable water require Clean Water Act permits, the court said in its opinion.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said releases of pollutants to groundwater that eventually make their way to navigable waters require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permits if they are the “functional equivalent of a direct discharge.”
According to the majority opinion, the key as to whether a discharge is a “functional equivalent” of a discharge focuses on “time and distance.”
The court’s decision may still expose farmers and ranchers to Clean Water Act violations as they relate to groundwater.