District Court Grants Temporary Reprieve in Montana Municipal Variance Litigation

Feb 18, 2021

(February 18, 2021) – In a win for Montana municipal wastewater dischargers, a District Court that previously ruled the state’s nutrient water quality standards variance for municipal dischargers must require compliance with stringent numeric criteria by the end of its term has determined that the state may hold off on revising the variance while the case is being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.    

NACWA, the Montana League of Cities (the League), the state of Montana, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), represented by the Department of Justice, all appealed the District Court’s holding concerning the variance requirements to the Ninth Circuit, which is set to hear oral arguments in the case next month. NACWA, the League, and the state also asked the District Court to stay its order requiring the state to revise the variance during the pendency of the appeal.   

The latest decision by the District Court granting the requested stay will allow time for the Ninth Circuit to rule on the lawfulness of the state’s variance before the state has to expend resources to alter it in accordance with the District Court’s decision.  It will likewise prevent municipal wastewater dischargers from potentially having to comply with the terms of a new variance that sets what NACWA, the League, the state, and EPA all contend are unnecessarily stringent timelines for meeting numeric nutrient water quality criteria.   

NACWA will continue to update the membership on the litigation as it proceeds. Please contact NACWA’s Chief Legal Counsel, Amanda Aspatore, with any questions.      

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