Saturday, May 4, 2013

Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers case brief

 Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers case brief
531 U.S. 159 (2001)

CASE SYNOPSIS: Upon writ of certiorari, petitioner consortium appealed the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit which upheld respondent United States Army Corps of Engineers' denial of petitioner's request for a waste disposal permit, finding that respondent's jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act extended to the proposed disposal site consisting of an abandoned gravel pit.

FACTS: Petitioner was a consortium of municipalities which sought to develop an abandoned gravel pit as a solid waste disposal site. Respondent United States Army Corps of Engineers denied petitioner's application for a disposal permit on the ground that, even though the gravel pit ponds constituted nonnavigable, isolated, intrastate waters, they were subject to protection as habitats for migratory birds. The court held that respondent's regulatory interpretation of the Clean Water Act to include the gravel pit, based solely on its nature as a bird habitat, impermissibly extended respondent's jurisdiction to ponds that were not adjacent to open water. The lack of legislation overruling respondent's interpretation did not indicate congressional acquiescence to such jurisdiction, and respondent's regulation effectively eliminated the statutory limitation of such jurisdiction to navigable waters. Further, the significant constitutional issues presented by respondent's attempt to usurp the states' traditional and primary power over land and water use precluded administrative deference and warranted reading the statute as written rather than as interpreted by respondent.

CONCLUSION: Judgment was reversed; even though petitioner's proposed waste disposal site was a habitat for migratory birds, federal agency jurisdiction did not extend to such nonnavigable, isolated, intrastate waters under the clean water statute which expressly limited such jurisdiction to navigable waters.

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