A federal court in California has allowed a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit to proceed against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. over alleged stormwater discharges at 31 corporate service yards in Northern California where the company stored vehicles and equipment. Ecological Rights Found. v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., No. 10-0121 (N.D. Cal. 2/4/11). Plaintiff alleged that activities at the service yards contaminated stormwater discharged from the sites and demanded that the company be required to obtain permits for the facilities under the CWA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Defendant contended that the facilities do not require NPDES or other permits under the CWA and filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Denying defendant’s motion, the court held that section 301(a) of the CWA prohibits discharges of pollutants from “point sources” into waterways without an NPDES permit and defendant failed to establish that the facilities at issue were not point sources as defined in the CWA. The court also said that under section 402(p) of the CWA, which applies to stormwater discharges, permits are required for any “discharge associated with industrial activity,” and defendant failed to show that the service yards fell outside of “industrial activity” under EPA regulations.