Recently in FIFRA Category

Poles Left Standing: Ninth Circuit Rejects Claim That Utility Poles Must Be Regulated Under the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

April 9, 2013

In an important victory for users of treated wooden poles, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week concluded that wooden utility poles are neither a "point source" subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act ("CWA") nor a "solid waste" subject to regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"). The decision is an important landmark for electric utilities, telecommunications carriers, and other companies using treated wooden poles. If the court had reached the opposite result, these industries could have been subject to burdensome new regulation under both the CWA and RCRA.

The Ninth Circuit's decision, Ecological Rights Foundation v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., rejects a lawsuit brought under the citizen suit provisions of the CWA and RCRA by a California environmental organization. The environmental plaintiff claimed that PCP and other wood treating chemicals are washed into the environment by rainwater, resulting in a "discharge" of a pollutant requiring the owner of wood poles to obtain a NPDES permit under the CWA. Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision rejecting a similar claim with respect to logging roads, the Ninth Circuit rejected this claim, as well. The court found that wooden poles are not a "point source" subject to CWA regulation. In particular, under EPA's approach to regulation of stormwater discharges, governed by 1987 amendments to the CWA, no NPDES permit is required because wood poles are not "associated with industrial activity," as would be the case at an industrial plant or storage area where rainwater is captured and channeled.

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Pesticides and Pacific Salmon: The Long and Winding Litigation Road Gets Longer as the Fourth Circuit Strikes Down NMFS's Biological Opinion

February 25, 2013

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the National Marine Fisheries Service's Biological Opinion ("BiOP") concluding that certain pesticides jeopardize endangered Pacific salmonid species. The Fourth Circuit's ruling is the latest volley in litigation dating back more than a decade concerning the impacts of pesticide exposure on endangered salmon and steelhead. Because the Fourth Circuit remanded the BiOp for further action, the Court's opinion will not be the last word.

The litigation has its roots in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act ("FIFRA"), which requires the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to register pesticides before they can be sold. Under 1988 amendments to FIFRA, EPA is required to re-register any pesticide that was originally registered prior to 1984 and, in doing so, to examine data concerning, among other things, whether the pesticide has "unreasonable adverse effects" on the environment. The first shot in the litigation war was fired in 2001, when a coalition of environmental groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court here in Seattle, successfully arguing that EPA's registration of pesticides is a "federal action." Because registration is a "federal action," EPA is required to consult under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") with the relevant federal agencies to ensure that registration does not jeopardize the survival of listed species. The District Court's opinion requiring consultation was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2005.

Continue reading "Pesticides and Pacific Salmon: The Long and Winding Litigation Road Gets Longer as the Fourth Circuit Strikes Down NMFS's Biological Opinion" »