Friday, August 9, 2013

NRDC v. County Of Los Angeles

Aug 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-56017. On Remand From The United States Supreme Court [In Los Angeles Cnty. Flood Control Dist. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 710 (2013), See WIMS 1/8/13].
The Appeals Court explains, Plaintiffs-Appellants Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper (collectively, the Plaintiffs) filed suit against the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (collectively, the County Defendants) alleging that the County Defendants are discharging polluted stormwater in violation of the terms of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, issued pursuant to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act, Act, or CWA), 86 Stat. 816, codified as amended at 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251, et
    The district court granted the County Defendants' motion for summary judgment, reasoning that Plaintiffs failed to prove that any individual defendant had discharged pollutants in violation of the Clean Water Act, where Plaintiffs' only evidence of violations was monitoring data taken downstream of the County Defendants' (and others') discharge points, as opposed to data sampled at the relevant discharge points themselves.
    On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in part and reversed in part. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc. v. Cnty. of L.A., 673 F.3d 880 (9th Cir. 2011) [See WIMS 3/11/11]. On January 8, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed our judgment and remanded this case to us for further proceedings. L.A. Cnty. Flood Control Dist. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 710 (2013). On February 19,
2013, the Ninth Circuit ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling.
    The Appeals Court rules, "Having considered the Supreme Court's ruling, the responses of the parties in their supplemental briefs, and other matters noted herein, we now conclude that the pollution exceedances detected at the County Defendants' monitoring stations are sufficient to establish the County Defendants' liability for NPDES permit violations as a matter of law. Accordingly, we once again reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County Defendants, and remand to the district court for a determination of the appropriate remedy for the County Defendants' violations."
    In conclusion of its reverse and remand the Ninth Circuit says, "Because the results of County Defendants' pollution monitoring conclusively demonstrate that pollution levels in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers are in excess of those allowed under the Permit, the County Defendants are liable for Permit violations as a matter of law. This case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including a determination of the appropriate remedy for the County Defendants' violations."
    Steve Fleischli, senior attorney and director of NRDC's national water program commented on the decision saying, "Today's influential victory once again confirms Los Angeles County's legacy of Clean Water Act violations. No longer can the County sit idle and let persistent pollution problems sicken swimmers in Southern California. Today, Los Angeles residents and visitors alike can celebrate a future with cleaner water, knowing that the County is legally obligated to get to work to address its pollution problem, and protect people and water quality. Luckily, we know there are a range of green infrastructure solutions available to ensure this pollution is addressed."

    Liz Crosson, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper said, "This opinion is a turning point for all of Los Angeles. Stormwater runoff is the number one source of pollution in Los Angeles' rivers and beaches and LA County is the largest discharger of stormwater. Holding LA County responsible for its pollution and working with them to find region-wide solutions is the biggest victory we could imagine."

    Access the complete opinion of the Ninth Circuit (click here). Access the release with background information from NRDC (click here).  [#Water, #SupCt, #CA9]

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