The Supreme Court recently declined to hear several cases raising environmental law questions.

One case sought a review of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) application of a Clean Water Act policy to prohibit blending storm water and sewage for discharge during heavy storms and the use of mixing zones. After the Eighth Circuit vacated the policy in 2013, the EPA responded by permitting blending and mixing zones only in the seven states within that circuit while continuing to prohibit them elsewhere. Municipalities challenged the EPA's limitation of the Eighth Circuit decision in the DC Circuit, but the court held that they should have filed their challenge in district court.

In another case, the Southern California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works claimed that two water reclamation plants had been denied permits after the EPA sent a formal objection letter to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board demanding that the permits include additional discharge limitations for chronic toxicity. The Ninth Circuit rejected the group's claim that the EPA's objection letter had created new regulatory obligations without a formal rulemaking, holding that the letter was only an interim step in the permitting process.

The Supreme Court also declined to hear an appeal from 140 Pennsylvania residents seeking a review of a Third Circuit ruling that the Price-Anderson Act had barred their suit against several companies that processed nuclear materials. The residents claimed that exposure to enriched uranium had caused their cancer, but the court held that they had not shown that radioactive emissions exceeded maximum permissible concentrations.

In a fourth case, a timber company and union sought a review of a Ninth Circuit ruling dismissing an appeal of a lower court's injunction against a timber harvesting project due to its potential impact on the endangered northern owl. The court held that it could not consider an appeal by the private parties when the Bureau of Land Management itself had not appealed.

Last, the Supreme Court declined to review a Second Circuit ruling upholding the EPA's 2008 inter-basin water transfer rule, exempting the transfer of water from one body to another via pipes, tunnels, or pumps from Clean Water Act permitting requirements. Several states, environmental groups and New York City argued that the transfers had violated the Clean Water Act by allowing the addition of pollutants from one body of water to another.

For further information on this topic please contact Samuel B Boxerman or Jim Wedeking at Sidley Austin LLP by telephone (+1 202 736 8000) or email (sboxerman@sidley.com or jwedeking@sidley.com). The Sidley Austin LLP website can be accessed at www.sidley.com.

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