Hawaii lawsuit could have big implications for Alaska

Hawaii lawsuit could have big implications for Alaska

Wastewater might need federal permits

A court case out of Hawaii could have big implications for Alaska’s mining industry.

The case said that any discharge of wastewater into navigable waters would require a federal permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This would mean that every project that put wastewater into navigable waters, a common practice for industrial projects, would need permitting from the federal government.

Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui was recently settled on Sept. 9 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It found that the County of Maui’s wastewater plant which discharged water which flowed into the ocean was in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Exemptions to the CWA are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) from the EPA.

Twenty state Attorney’s General, including Alaska’s Kevin Clarkson, have filed an brief urging the United States Supreme Court to review the case.

“The decision greatly expands the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction and the CWA’s regulatory requirements. This reworking of the statutory framework infringes upon the sovereign prerogative of the States to manage their water resources,” the brief says.

Even the EPA released a statement saying the categories covered in the ruling were outside the jurisdiction of the CWA and the Agency.

On Sept. 9, following the announcement of the settlement, Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation remanded a crucial permit for a mining exploration project north of Haines, known as the Palmer Project.

It’s not yet clear how the Maui case will affect the Palmer Project. In an email Wednesday, Laura Achee, information officer and legislative liaison for DEC, said that staff will be looking into whether that case is applicable and to what extent in the coming weeks. DEC has 90 days to complete its review.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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