U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Allows Citizens Groups’ Environmental Lawsuit to Proceed
Monday, April 16, 2018 at 9:09AM
Clark Hill

South Carolina decision could become relevant to protecting the Great Lakes.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over matters originating in Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Last week, a divided panel allowed two citizen groups to proceed with a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief following a pipeline spill. In 2014, a Kinder Morgan pipeline ruptured in Belton, South Carolina. While the source of the rupture was repaired and most of the released gasoline was recaptured, the citizen groups allege that a plume of contamination was threatening wetlands, streams, and the Savannah River. The district court judge dismissed the lawsuit because the rupture had been repaired and there was no direct contamination of waterways. Two judges agreed that "nothing in the language of the CWA suggests that citizens are barred from seeking injunctive relief after a polluter has repaired the initial cause of the pollution.” A third judge dissented. The majority determined that pollution migrating through groundwater was a sufficient basis to bring an action under the federal Clean Water Act.

This article details a coolant spill in the Straits of Mackinac. While the South Carolina decision is not directly relevant to that incident because the recent spill occurred directly into protected waters, a decision expanding the scope of relief afforded to citizens under the Clean Water Act could be relevant if contamination was leaching into the Great Lakes indirectly through groundwater. 

If you have any questions about pipeline issues, please feel free to contact me.

Article originally appeared on Clark Hill Property Owner Condemnation Services (http://michigancondemnationblog.com/).
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