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W.Va. Attorney General Morrisey in 21-State effort to protect property owners at U.S. Supreme Court

Release from the W.Va. Attorney General’s Office:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has played an integral role in leading a 21-state effort to protect West Virginia property owners, farmers and energy producers. 

The Attorney General recently filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that, if left intact, would give the federal government unprecedented control over small streams, farms and property, including one county’s well-respected approach to discharging treated wastewater.

“If the Supreme Court does not reverse the lower court, that would create tremendous uncertainty and would, we contend, actually go against existing law,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “By staying with the sensible, predictable definition of what constitutes surface water, everyone knows when and if they are subject to the federal Clean Water Act. That is the clarity governments, businesses and property owners need.”

The lower court ruling specifically concerned a public wastewater utility in Maui County, Hawaii, however any ruling by the Supreme Court will set case law governing similar instances in West Virginia and the rest of the nation.

The coalition argues 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, if upheld, would represent a significant expansion of the federal Clean Water Act, beyond Congress’ intent of regulating surface water such as rivers and lakes.

For instance, expanding the Clean Water Act to regulate groundwater would potentially require every home septic system owner to apply for a federal permit. Such a requirement would impact roughly 220,000 West Virginians.

Farms, oil and natural gas operations, wastewater treatment plants and other entities could face similar liability, potentially killing countless jobs in the process.

Attorney General Morrisey has been a national leader in fighting an Obama-era regulation that would similarly give the federal government jurisdiction over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.

The Attorney General’s persistence helped win a stay that blocked enforcement of the Waters of the United States rule in October 2015, a victory West Virginia continues to benefit from, as it proved crucial in providing time for a new administration and reconsideration of the rule.

West Virginia led the Supreme Court brief with support of attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, along with the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi.

Read the brief at

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