KY Riverkeeper, Inc. v. Rowlette, No. 11-6083 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers issued two nationwide general permits that authorized surface and underground coalmining operations to discharge dredged and fill material into waters of the United States. The Corps conducted a public notice-and-comment period and completed a cumulative-impacts analysis that projected the permits’ respective environmental impacts before determining that compensatory mitigation would reduce adverse impacts to a minimal level. The Corps disclosed its analyses and findings in each permit’s Environmental Assessment in lieu of an environmental impact statement. Riverkeeper sued, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344(e), the National Environmental Protection Act, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C), and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706, during the Corps’ issuance of two nationwide coal-mining waste-discharge permits in 2007. The district court granted summary judgment to the Corps. During Riverkeeper’s appeal, the permits at issue expired. The Sixth Circuit concluded that the case remains in controversy and reversed in part. Although the Corps repeatedly objected to the feasibility of Riverkeeper’s demands, in taking the “easier path” of preparing an environmental assessment instead of an environmental impact statement the Corps failed to follow CWA and NEPA regulations by documenting its assessment of environmental impacts and examining past impacts.