Sidley’s Environmental practice group has four decades of experience helping clients comply with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and state/local equivalents. We provide advice on permitting and compliance, litigation and enforcement and regulatory and legislative advocacy. Our lawyers have developed deep technical knowledge of surface and groundwater statutes, including drinking water regulations, water treatment and reuse and sewage treatment issues.
Clean Water Act
Permitting and Compliance Assistance
We counsel companies on a range of permitting/licensing and compliance issues, including analyzing, preparing comments on and appealing (or defending from challenges) numerous Clean Water Act, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and pretreatment permits imposing both technology-based and water quality-based effluent limitations and Section 404 wetlands permit, as well as state-issued water quality certifications required under the CWA for federal permits or licenses.
Our permitting/licenses and compliance work includes assisting:
- A lender about the provision of financing to an entrepreneur for the acquisition and operation of paper manufacturing equipment at a former paper manufacturing mill in Tennessee.
- A private equity firm in identifying and addressing the environmental issues raised by the acquisition of a specialty chemical manufacturer in Michigan, including an evaluation of compliance with the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Proposition 65 and wastewater discharge regulations applicable to the chemicals industry.
Enforcement and Litigation
Our lawyers have a nuanced understanding of enforcement and litigation related to the CWA. We have defended numerous clients in CWA criminal and civil government enforcement matters and in citizen suits involving unpermitted discharges and other infractions, including conducting related internal investigations.
Examples of our enforcement and litigation work include representing:
- Duke Energy in connection with a federal criminal investigation over NPDES permit issues at coal ash ponds at 14 facilities as well as a state administrative enforcement action alleging violations of groundwater standards stemming from the company’s coal ash ponds.
- Tyson Foods in connection with an internal investigation into CWA compliance at a Missouri facility and a federal criminal case at another Tyson Missouri facility.
Regulatory and Legislative Advocacy
Our lawyers have handled numerous issues of substantial importance to water quality regulation throughout the country, including the EPA’s methodology for deriving water quality standards for protection of wildlife and enforcement of water quality-based effluent limitations. We have prepared comments on regulatory and legislative guidelines covering many areas, including metal products and machinery; organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers; and pesticides.
Examples of our regulatory and legislative advocacy work include advising:
- The National Association of Manufacturers regarding the Army Corps of Engineers/EPA’s proposed regulations regarding the scope of the “Waters of the United States” under the CWA.
- Clients on Congressional efforts to reauthorize the CWA and other CWA-related matters.
We have assisted numerous clients in connection with the EPA’s multi-billion dollar grant program for reconstruction and upgrading of municipal wastewater treatment plants. We represented major developers, sanitary districts and municipalities in their efforts to obtain and implement grants under this program. The grants were subject to (and our lawyers were responsible for) satisfaction of numerous conditions, including:
- Adhering to extensive planning requirements, priority ordinances and industrial cost recovery provisions
- Analyzing innovative and alternative technologies