Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20120
Nos. 2:13-CV-02136, (N.D. Ala., 05/21/2014) (Acker, J.)

A district court dismissed an environmental group's lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 2012 reissuance of Nationwide Permit 21 (NWP 21), a five-year general permit authorizing surface coal mining operations to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the United States if the operations meet certain requirements. The requirements in the 2012 version of NWP 21 differ for operations that were authorized under the previous general permit. The group claimed that these differences violate the CWA and NEPA and that the Corps therefore violated the APA by issuing the new permit. Although the court disagreed with the Corps and intervening mining companies that the group lacked standing, it held that the group's claim is barred by laches. The 2012 version of NWP 21 was issued in February 2012 and became effective in March 2012. Yet the group did not file suit until November 2013. The group claimed it was reasonable to wait to bring suit until after the district engineer granted 2012 NWP 21 reauthorizations. But the group could have brought suit as soon as a single reauthorization was granted--in May 2012--or at least by February 2013, at which point more than 60 reauthorizations had been granted. The court found this delay to be inexcusable. In the alternative, the court held that the Corps and the intervenors are entitled to summary judgment on the merits. The Corps' nationwide cumulative effects analysis complied with the CWA and NEPA, and it did not improperly consider compensatory mitigation.