Settlement of Key CWA Case Still Unclear

(September 25, 2019) - As anticipated, the Maui County Council in Hawaii voted 5-4 last week to accept a settlement agreement from Earthjustice, the lead environmental litigant in the groundwater case currently pending before the US Supreme Court. 

However, there is uncertainty about the Council’s ability to make a final decision to settle litigation. The question is whether this is a legislative function or an executive one requiring the Mayor’s approval.

In response to the vote, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino issued a press release stating:

From homeowners with cesspools or septic systems to hundreds of millions of dollars in treatment plant conversions with questionable environmental benefits, the effect this case could have on our residents is enormous. These issues are not scare tactics or fake news – these are very real concerns that I must fully vet in considering whether to withdraw from Supreme Court review.

With oral argument in the case only 6 weeks away, the question of authority to settle may not be resolved before the case is heard by the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, NACWA will continue to emphasize the importance of this issue from a national perspective.  Until the legal question at issue is resolved either by the Supreme Court or Congress, regulatory uncertainty will persist.

NACWA members with concerns about the impact of this case are also encouraged to submit a letter of support encouraging continuation of the litigation.  Members with any questions can contact Amanda Waters, NACWA’s General Counsel.