County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund

Addressing groundwater regulation must be left to state and local governments

Amicus Briefs > Economic Liberty > County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund

This case is about whether the Clean Water Act regulates pollution that reaches surface water from groundwater. If it does, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has said, then every homeowner with a septic tank could be subject to harsh treatment from federal agency bureaucrats.

In our friend-of-the-court brief, PLF argues that the Supreme Court should reverse the Ninth Circuit and hold that discharges into groundwater do not require federal Clean Water Act permits.

  • The Ninth Circuit was wrong in concluding that the Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. United States (a 2006 PLF case) supports the regulation of groundwater discharges. Instead, we argue that Rapanos rejected the expansion of federal Clean Water Act regulation. This argument is unique to our amicus brief.
  • The Ninth Circuit’s decision undermines cooperative federalism and Congress’s intent that regulation of groundwater pollution be left to the States.
  • The Ninth Circuit’s expansion and application of the Clean Water Act places debilitating and unjust burdens on ordinary landowners, such as those whom PLF represented in Robertson v. United States and Tin Cup, LLC v. U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. No other amicus brief filed in this case speaks as forcefully in support of affected ordinary landowners.

Related Documents

PLF regularly participates as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in cases brought by others. This supplements our direct representation cases by providing judges with unique, strategic, and helpful arguments to consider when crafting their opinions in related cases

County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund - PLF AC Merits Brief

December 10, 2019 Download

What’s at stake?

  • At stake is a massive expansion of the Clean Water Act to cover not just discharges into navigable waters but also all discharges that make their way to navigable waters, such as by passing through groundwater.
  • Millions of landowners could be affected by such an expansion, including any homeowner with a septic tank.

Brief Authors

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