Federal Spotlight: SCOTUS Rules Against Defendants in Groundwater Pollution Case

April 30, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that will have implications for those who directly discharge pollutants into federally regulated waters or its “functional equivalent." In a 6-3 decision in the County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the High Court ruled the county violated the Clean Water Act by inserting wastewater underground without a permit that eventually made its way into the ocean. Justice Breyer, writing the majority opinion, stated, “We conclude that [a permit is required] if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” The case now heads back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with this newly created “functional test.” Read more from The Hill.