Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., No. 17-1640 (4th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
In 2014, several hundred thousand gallons of gasoline spilled from a rupture in an underground pipeline near Belton, South Carolina. The gasoline seeped into nearby waterways. Following a cleanup, at least 160,000 gallons allegedly remained unrecovered. Plaintiffs allege that the gasoline has continued to travel a distance of 1000 feet or less from the pipeline to Browns Creek and Cupboard Creek, which are tributaries of the Savannah River, and their adjacent wetlands Conservation groups brought a citizen suit under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251–1387, alleging violations by polluting "navigable waters of the United States" without a permit and seeking relief to remediate the ongoing pollution. The district court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the pipeline has been repaired and the pollutants currently pass through groundwater to reach “navigable waters.” The Fourth Circuit vacated. Citizens may bring suit under 33 U.S.C. 1365(a) for discharges of pollutants that derive from a “point source,” defined as “any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, [or] container” and continue to be “added” to navigable waters. Plaintiffs have stated a valid claim for a discharge under the Act.