Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA

Date: August 28th, 2015

Topic: Water Pollution

Type: Defense of Federal Standards

Jurisdiction: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington

Citation: Murray Energy Corp. v. U.S. EPA (In re: Envtl. Prot. Agency and Dep’t of Defense, Final Rule: Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States”: 80 Fed.Reg. 37,054, Published on June 29, 2015), No. 15-3751 (6th Cir. 2015)

On June 29, 2015, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers promulgated the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States or WOTUS rule. The final rule clarified which waters are subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Numerous petitions were filed nationwide in district and in circuit courts challenging the validity of the new rule. Washington joined a coalition of states (the Intervenor States-New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia) and intervened in support of the rule. The circuit court cases were consolidated in the Sixth Circuit, and in October 2015, the Court issued a nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule.

Questions over the correct legal forum prompted the filing of motions to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds as to whether 33 U.S.C § 1369(b) gives exclusive jurisdiction to the court of appeals to hear challenges to the Clean Water Rule, or whether the matter must be heard in the district court under Section 704 of the APA. In February 2016, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit denied the motions to dismiss and issued a divided opinion which concluded that exclusive original jurisdiction lies with the court of appeals pursuant to § 1369(b)(1)(E) and (F).

The National Association of Manufacturers petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit’s jurisdictional holding, which the Supreme Court granted. Following the Supreme Court’s acceptance of review, the Sixth Circuit issued an order suspending briefing on the merits of the challenges to the Rule pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the jurisdictional question. In March 2017, the federal respondents filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to hold the briefing schedule in abeyance in light of President Trump’s Executive Order directing EPA and the Army to review and rescind or revise the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The Supreme Court denied the request to put the case on hold.