The Clean Water Act and Groundwater Pollution: A Natural Fit or an Interpretive Stretch?

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The scope of the Clean Water Act is a notoriously difficult question. Attention has largely focused on the extent to which the Act reaches wetlands, arroyos, ponds, and other surface features that have only slight connections to traditional navigable waters. Three recent decisions from the federal courts of appeals, however, augur an expansion of the controversy. The Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals have ruled that the Act applies to at least some forms of groundwater pollution, whereas the Sixth Circuit has ruled that it doesn’t.

This Federalist Society Teleforum will address the arguments pro and con for construing the Clean Water Act to directly regulate groundwater pollution, as well as the larger policy concerns raised by increased federal involvement in an area of traditional state and local competence.


Damien M. Schiff, Senior Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation


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